Eric Abidal – Barcelona fire director of football after loss to Bayern Munich

Dayot Upamecano

The UEFA Champions League semifinals are set to kick off on Tuesday, with a pair of Bundesliga-versus-Ligue 1 matchups on the docket: PSG – RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich – Lyon.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ] 

Below is a look at a pair of key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League semifinal fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League quarterfinals

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Key battles

PSG – RB Leipzig: Kylian Mbappe v. Dayot Upamecano

Is this a matchup of the best young forward in the world, versus the best young center back in the world? Maybe. Probably. OK, it definitely is.

Dayot Upamecano
(Photo by Julian Finney – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Mbappe’s credentials are well-known by this point, but Upamecano is only just beginning to receive the superstar treatment of his fellow Frenchman. Perhaps no individual player stood out more than Upamecano (in a good way — sorry, Barcelona fans) in the quarterfinal round, as it was the 21-year-old who time after time thwarted every half-chance Atletico Madrid looked like creating.

There’s no question about it: Upamecano will have to put forth another Herculean effort to knock PSG out on Tuesday, a task which will be doubly difficult following Mbappe’s return from an ankle injury which was initially expected to keep him out of PSG’s quarterfinal clash with Atalanta. For 60 minutes, the three-time reigning Ligue 1 champions struggled for clear-cut scoring chances — and even trailed until the 90th minute — prior to Mbappe’s introduction from the bench. Assuming Mbappe is available from the start on Tuesday, Upamecano and Co., are suddenly looking at a front-three of Mbappe, Neymar and Mauro Icardi. It cannot be overstated how much more dangerous that is than Neymar-Icardi-Sarabia.

With any luck, Mbappe and Upamecano won’t wind up at the same club at any point in their careers, and this won’t be the last time we’re treated to this spectacle. It is undeniably a clash befitting the Champions League semifinals.

[ MORE: Should Messi leave Barcelona? Will he? | How does Barca rebuild? ]


Bayern Munich – Lyon: Robert Lewandowski/Thomas Mueller v. Bruno Guimaraes

Guimaraes will have his hands beyond full as the midfielder responsible for tracking the fluid movement and constant interplay between Lewandowski and Mueller. Lewandowski is perhaps the best center forward in the world when it comes to dropping slightly deeper to link play, and that’s made all the more dangerous by Mueller’s not-quite-a-center-forward-but-very-nearly-a-center-forward instincts which tell him when is the proper time to push higher and overlap Lewandowski.

Lyon opted for a three-man backline against Man City in the quarterfinals and, thanks to a little help from Pep Guardiola’s overly conservative team selection, they were largely successful in funneling everything into the central areas where they had the numerical advantage. City’s lack of a secondary winger opposite Raheem Sterling was a real hindrance. Unfortunately for manager Rudi Garcia and Co., the same cannot be said of Bayern.

Serge Gnabry is a terror on the right and Alphonso Davies more than provides the width on the left. This will, in all likelihood, result in the two outside center backs being pulled wider and wider, leaving one on an island in the center, and forcing Guimaraes deeper and deeper to help as Lewandowski and Mueller look to combine and capitalize on acres of space.

Massive, massive advantage to Bayern.

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