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Key events

1 min Bayern move it confidently through midfield, then Stoke’s Choupo-Moting wriggles space and swipes a shot from 20 yards that sails past the far post but no by loads.

1 min Away we go!

A minute’s silence to respect those who’ve died in the Turkey/Syria earthquake. Godspeed, people.

You may recall that these teams met in the 2020 final, Coman scoring the winner.

Here come our teams!

“Most major pro-sport teams in the world have clauses in their contracts that don’t allow players to participate in dangerous outdoor sports, especially skiing,” emails Mary Waltz. “Did Bayern have any penalties for their goalie breaking his leg on the slopes?”

Imagine how tense the call was when he called Nagelsmann. Like when Man City played Spurs in the Cup, were 3-0 down at half-time, and Joey Barton had to go in and let Kevin Keegan know he’d been sent-off while leaving the pitch – before City somehow forced their way back and won. I say somehow, like they weren’t playing Spurs.

Ach, go on: during the World Cup I stuck up a playlist of Ghanaian tunes that went down well, so here are the sounds of Accra from the aforementioned period, featuring much Afrobeats, a bit of Afro-house and much amapiano.

“Greetings from a surprisingly balmy Midwest where it is 56 degrees (13 to you) in the middle of February!” emails Joe Pearson. “Wondering what our major digressive theme will be this MBM, because there always is one (sometimes two). If you want to go books, ‘My Heart is a Chainsaw’ by Stephen Jones is incredibly meta and fun. Or how about strange covers like Easy Star All-Stars ‘Dub Side of the Moon’? Whatever it is, I’m here for it. What, there’s a football match on? Oh.”

OK, well here’s a cover I heard in the klurb in Detty December, also known as Christmas and new year in Accra, and lost my mind.

I can’t though, big-up Bayern’s midfield without looking at Paris’. Verratti isn’t quite what he was, I don’t think, but he’s still a tremendous player, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Soler fares outside him because he promised to be something a few years ago before his development slowed, and probably wasn’t expecting the opportunity this move presented him with. His left-footed passing gives a nice balance to things, but without any pace through the middle, he’s relying on the wing-backs to run in behind.

I absolutely love Bayern’s midfield. The balance of the three is near-enough perfect, Kimmich able to do almost everything; Goretzka a box-to-box monster and fine human being; Musiala a mercurial wildcard of insulting youthfulness. As a trio they might be the best around, and my sense is they’ll control this tie well enough to see Bayern through.

Another reason I’m buzzing for this tie is to see what Messi has left. Obviously he was alright in the World Cup, imposing his will on the tournament in affirming style. But this is, in the end, a higher standard of football, and he’s playing against better opposition and no longer in a team constructed to get the most from him.

Also tonight, Spurs are in San Siro. Follow that one with Barry Glendenning.

On which point, is there any evidence that supports the deployment of Sané on the right? Wide left, his ability to stretch the pitch but still attack the box made him unusual; on the right, he looks a little lost a lot fo the time – at least when I’ve seen him there.

On the other hand, Bayern will, I’d guess, be looking to exploit Paris out wide. If Cancelo and Coman can get at Mendes and Ramos, there’s joy to be had, and though Hakimi and Danilo look a little stronger on the opposite flank, Sané can do damage in the space between them.

Looking again at the teams, the game for Paris is, I think, down the sides of their centre-backs, both of whom have ability but neither of whom is entirely reliable. De Ligt lacks a bit of pace, while Upemacano is error-prone, and neither is used to facing attackers as skilful and intelligent as Messi and Neymar.

Jo-Lyon Le Scott has just advised us that Messi is “an exceptional talent” which surely contravenes the rules of football vernacular – by roughly a decade and a half.

As for Bayern, I was interested to see the team sent out because I was intrigued to see who was in Nagelsmann’s first XI. And for now, it’s Cancelo not Davies – I don’t massively get that, good though Cancelo is – Sané and Coman, not Gnabry – and Choupo-Moting through the middle, not Müller or one of the wingers. Sadio Mané, of course, is still injured, likewise Manuel Neuer.

The headline news is, of course, the return of Mbappé, who’s on the bench, but otherwise I’m buzzing to see Warren Zaïre-Emery, who starts in the Paris midfield; he is 16 years old or, put another way, 27 years younger than me to the day. Otherwise, the 3-5-2 system makes some sense, as it allows Hakimi and Mendes the freedom they need to bomb forward, disguises a relative weakness in midfield, and limits any defensive running Messi and Neymar have to do.

Teams!

Paris Saint-Germain (3-5-2): Donnarumma; Pereira, Marquinhos, Ramos; Hakimi, Zaïre-Emery, Verratti, Soler, Mendes; Messi, Neymar. Subs: Kimpembe, Mbappé, Ruiz, Bernat, Rico, Vitinha, Pembélé, Bitshiabu, Gharbi, Ekitikém Letellier.

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Pavard, Upamecano, De Ligt, Cancelo; Kimmich, Goretzka; Sané, Musiala, Coman; Choupo-Motimg. Subs: Gnabry, Davies, Sarr, Blind, Müller, Ulreich, Schenk, Gravenberch, Tel, Stanisic, Ibrahimovic.

Referee: England’s brave Michael Oliver (England)

“I’m looking for something that looks like the test card…”

Julian nagelsmann in silly outfit
Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Preamble

You can’t get cheesier than Valentine’s Day in Paris, so it makes perfect sense that it’s Valentine’s Day in Paris when the Champions League cheesefest gets real. And, of course, because humans are irredeemable cheesemonsters we’re putty in its hands, desperate to change it but no less in love with it; obsessed with its good bits to the exclusion of its bad ones; pick that metaphor out.

Both of tonight’s teams will fancy themselves to win the thing – the entitlement of wealth versus the entitlement of identiy – and it’s easy to make a case for either. Paris are, as they almost always are, clear domestically and waiting for Europe to determine whether this is just another tedious title-winning season or something more momentous. As always and even given an injured Kylian Mbappé, they’ve a ludicrous assortment of game-breaking talent, the problem being that ludicrous assortments tend not to win this trophy because eventually they come up against a considered collection and lose – or, in the case of Paris, seize defeat in whatever way circumstance offers it to them.

Bayern, meanwhile, have the knowhow, the brilliance and the options – no squad in the world contains as many exceptional players – but that brings with it its own difficulties. For pretty much the entirety of his spell in Bavaria, Julian Nagelsmann, has seemed slightly lost in the supermarket, trying to perm the best XI from the infinite options available to him while reminding everyone just how clever and modern he is. Sometimes it works, and other times – well, you’ve seen his attire.

Ultimately, both these sides are flawed – Bayern are seeking balance while Paris lack cohesion – but either could bring ol’ Big Ears home because of the ability to conjure goals out of nowhere. More than that, though, this year’s edition lacks an obviously outstanding team, so whoever hits a seam at the right time will be champions – a tantalising prospect for squads so talented they’re perpetually on the verge – and also for us, given that right time is right now.

Kick-off: 9pm local, 8pm GMT

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