Mbappe and PSG have sights on Champions League final but Dortmund stand in way – Sport

DORTMUND: The tantalising prospect of Kylian Mbappe squaring up to Real Madrid in the Champions League final looms large, with only Borussia Dortmund lying in Paris St Germain’s way.

Mbappe becomes a free agent at the end of the season when Real are favourites to finally land the forward they have coveted for so long.

Before that there are trophies to be won, with none bigger in club football than the Champions League.

Real, who face Bayern Munich in the other semi-final, have dominated the competition with 14 wins, while PSG and Mbappe are still waiting for their first.

Mbappe’s imminent departure has partly been attributed to PSG’s failure to transfer their domestic dominance to the continent. How ironic then if the France forward triumphed in his final year at the club, especially against the team he looks likeliest to join.

Conversely, a record-extending 15th crown for Madrid at the expense of PSG would serve only to confirm to Mbappe that his ambitions are best served at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

But before that, while Real have to do their bit, Mbappe and PSG too have their work cut out with a trip to Dortmund for Wednesday’s first leg.

PSG won another Ligue 1 title on Sunday but the Champions League is the trophy the Qatar-backed club is desperate to finally get its hands on. PSG lost the final in 2020 to Bayern Munich.

The club is already planning for life without superstar striker Mbappe with players like Randal Kolo Muani, Ousmane Dembele and Goncalo Ramos expected to help fill the void in his absence.

But Mbappe could still have a big say in the Champions League and he scored two goals in PSG’s 4-1 comeback win against Barcelona in the quarter-finals.

“It’s the question you hear the most: ‘How do you stop Kylian Mbappe?’” Dortmund coach Edin Terzic told reporters on Tuesday. “With his exceptional individual quality, he [Mbappe] has now scored 43 goals in 44 games. Opponents set themselves the goal of not letting him score in 44 games. It doesn’t always work.

“But if you focus only on Kylian Mbappe, then comes Ousmane Dembele or [Goncalo] Ramos, or Vitinha, or [Achraf] Hakimi, or (Randal) Kolo Muani and all the others. They have unbelievable quality. If we want to focus on one thing, then we need to focus on the ball. If we worry about the ball — there’s just one — then it’s much harder for them to score.”

Terzic said lifting the European Cup has been the “main objective” of PSG since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investments.

“The project in Paris began with the goal of winning the Champions League,” Terzic said. “That’s been their main objective for a decade. They have added a very, very high level of quality to this team, a team that has been built up in recent years to win the Champions League.”

It’s been a strange season for Dortmund and that was underlined by Saturday’s 4-1 Bundesliga loss against top-four rivals RB Leipzig.

Dortmund’s deep Champions League run this season, however, has kept fans hopeful of some silverware.

Dortmund, Champions League winners in 1997, also met PSG in the group stage. The French side won 2-0 in Paris before a 1-1 draw in Dortmund.

“You could sense in the return leg that we had learned the lessons from the first game,” Terzic said. “Now PSG look to be at their very peak this season with only one defeat in 2024 and a good run of results. We will have to show an improved performance from that in Dortmund.

“We are confident that will show it tomorrow and next week in Paris. The clear goal is to gain a small advantage after the game tomorrow. We know we have to play at least 180 minutes at the highest level to have any shot at our dream.”

Dortmund have gone 10 games unbeaten at home in the Champions League in their 80,000-seat strong Westfalenstadion fortress but PSG manager Luis Enrique, who won the elite European competition as Barcelona manager in 2015, dismissed talk his side were feeling the heat.

“What’s great about being here is that we can enjoy a really special game at a unique stadium in Europe,” the Spaniard, who took over at PSG at the end of last season, said on Tuesday.

“We have a chance to make our fans really happy by reaching the final. That’s what we’ve earned the right to do. We’ll try to enjoy that. We will try to win both legs. It’s not in our handbook to leave things to chance. It will be a wonderful spectacle for everyone who loves football.

“When you come to stadiums like this one it’s a pleasure. You have to enjoy where you are and where you are as footballers as well. We’ll experience it all tomorrow. We are ready and prepared to play two great games and want to win both of them.”

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2024

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