Champions League preview: PSG host Bayern as English clubs face tough tests on the road

The Champions League is back — and the time has come for some tantalising two-legged knockout action.

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain host Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in what promises to be an incredible match-up full of world-class quality. 

AC Milan, meanwhile, will play host to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur at the San Siro — two clubs that will be desperate to progress to the next round after inconsistent league campaigns.

Two-time Champions League winners Chelsea travel to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund who will be backed up by the ferocious Yellow Wall. 

Elsewhere, the surprise package of the group stage — Club Brugge — host Benfica in a tie that could go either way. 

We enlisted the help of the Twenty3 Toolbox to preview these mouth-watering games. 

Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich (Tuesday, 8pm)

PSG will want to keep hold of the ball — they have completed 3,333 passes in the competition so far, the third-most of any team. 

However, Bayern Munich will have the same intention — the German giants have completed 2,999. 

The battle for possession will certainly be interesting and it may well come down to which side’s midfield general can stamp their authority on proceedings. 

PSG’s main midfield orchestrater is Marco Verratti, while Joshua Kimmich occupies that role for Bayern. 

The former has already underlined his credentials in this season’s Champions League, completing the second-most passes of any player (460). 

Kimmich, meanwhile, has connected with fewer (330), although the German international has been more creative, notching three assists — the joint-most in the competition. 

Further forward, PSG boast the competition’s joint-top scorer in the lethal Kylian Mbappe (seven) and are in no shortage of quality beside him — Lionel Messi has seven goal contributions while Neymar has four. 

Bayern’s defence will have to be on red alert and add to their tally of 587 successful defensive actions if they are to stop the talented triumvirate.

AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur (Tuesday, 8pm)

This game could be a very interesting spectacle — neither team adopts a particularly possession-heavy style. 

In the Champions League this season, Milan and Tottenham have completed just 2,103 and 2,512 passes, respectively — instead looking to hit opponents on the break.

However, the Rossoneri have been more effective in the final third, scoring 12 goals to Spurs’ eight. 

This may be down to the difference in directness in possession — Stefano Pioli’s men have completed 106 dribbles, the fifth-highest of any team. Antonio Conte’s side, however, have only completed 59 — the fourth-lowest record in the competition. 

The Italian giants’ high-risk, high-reward approach could prove to be the deciding factor in what appears to be a game of fine margins.

Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea (Wednesday, 8pm)

At a glance, these two sides profile as similarly potent in attack — they have both scored 10 goals in the Champions League so far. 

However, while Chelsea are underperforming their xG of 11.94, Dortmund are overperforming their own tally of 6.95 xG — the difference in chance quality between these sides is substantial.

Graham Potter’s side have a tendency to recycle the ball in possession. They boast the fifth-highest record of passes completed (3,233) and the second-most backward passes (623), suggesting they are patient in waiting for their opening. 

The Blues will not have it all their own way, though. The data suggests that Dortmund will be actively looking to disrupt these long patterns of play — they have made the second-most interceptions in the Champions League this term (289). 

Club Brugge vs Benfica (Wednesday, 8pm)

Benfica were lethal in front of goal in the group stage, scoring 16 goals — the fourth-most in the competition. 

They did so from 12.61 xG, suggesting they are overperforming, but they will be hoping to maintain this level of productivity up for the knockouts, especially as they will have to be at their offensive best to beat Club Brugge, who secured a place in the knockout stages mainly through defensive steel. 

The Belgian side, remarkably, kept five clean sheets in their six group games. Bayern Munich are the only club to do the same. 

They only scored seven goals, but their tight defensive unit negated the need for a prolific goalscorer, with no player netting more than twice.

All graphics in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.