Skip to content

Champions League preview: Picking favorites between Bayern Munich, Barcelona

Apr 23, 2013, 5:01 AM EDT

Barcelona v Paris St Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Getty Images

Having won an ever-tougher German league in record time, Bayern Munich needs little more to prove their European bonafides that the domestic distance between them and Borussia Dortmund (20 points), a 4-0 (aggregate) trouncing of Juventus in the UEFA Champions League quarters, and a roster with depth and quality that rivals any in world soccer. If they did, the 16-2 margin they’ve racked up in winning their last three league games or the +75 goal difference they’ve accumulated through 30 Bundesliga rounds would be enough to argue they’re not only Europe’s form team, they’ve put together UEFA’s most impressive campaign. If you were to pick Champions League’s favorite based on only this year’s returns, Bayern would be the obvious choice.

But that status only confounds the picture ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal, one that pits the would-be kings against the reigning monarchs. Because although Barcelona didn’t win last year’s Champions League (remember Chelsea?), their status as ‘team our club would most like to emulate’ creates a standard, one Bayern has implicitly bought into while tabbing Pep Guardiola to take over at the Allianz next year. Having won two Champions Leagues and three Spanish titles during four years bossing the Blaugrana, the Barcelona legend is set to bring Barça to Bavaria, a move that makes Tuesday’s meeting the first half of a type of Guardiola Clasico.

“I have respect for Pep Guardiola and we have a very good relationship,” Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes said on Monday. “This match will not affect this. I don’t need any information from anyone. I know Spanish football, I know Barça and I know my own team very well.”

It’s exactly what you’d expect from a coach that signed off on Guardiola’s hire, though it doesn’t help answer the central questions ahead of Tuesday’s match: Who’s the favorite? The team with the gaudy numbers and layers upon layers of talent? Or the team that sits on the proverbial throne.

There seem to be two schools of thought:

Picking Bayern Picking Barça
They’re clearly the best team in Europe. They’ve lapped the Bundesliga and embarrassed Juventus with talent that explains their results. Only subscribing to Barcelona mysticism would make them underdogs. We’re seen Barcelona be eliminated by lesser teams than Bayern. It’s one thing to put up impressive results against Germany and the res of Champions League – results that shouldn’t be discounted – but Barcelona is so stylistically distinct, you predict results based on a club’s performance against other teams. Most teams crumble against Barcelona

Bayern’s a team which, even by Barcelona’s standards, has an enviable amount of artillery. Even with first choice number nine Mario Mandsukic suspended, Bayern has an elite goal scorer: German international Mario Gomez. On the flanks, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben present significant challenges for Barcelona’s fullbacks, while Thomas Muller, set to play in support of Gomez, has proven himself in a World Cup and the previous Champions League. Bayern has no shortage of players who could win this match.

“To sum up Bayern’s strength this year with just one word, I would say ‘teamwork’,” Heynckes said. “Bayern play the most modern and up-to-date football in their history. There are so many things you can prepare before a game, but being spontaneous is very important in football. You need good intuition to do this.”

source: ReutersThat spontaneity means players like midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger (right) and Javi Martinez could also be threats, as well as fullbacks Philipp Lahm and David Alaba. It also means the team may have the fluidity to cover for the absence of Toni Kroos, the Bayern playmaker out for the season after suffering an abductors injury against Málaga.

The bigger injury concern, however, lies with the other side. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – the consensus world’s best player who’s scored an astounding 43 goals in 29 league games – has only played since the his team’s second quarterfinal leg against Paris Saint-Germain, a match in which he could only go half an hour. Having picked up in injury in the first leg in Paris, Messi hasn’t started a game since April 2. He’s expected to being in Jordi Roura’s starting XI on Tuesday, but whether he’s 100 percent remains to be seem.

“Messi is improving and is getting better but we will have to see what the doctor says,” Barça’s interim boss Jordi Roura said on Monday. “He is a great player because he can dictate games. We hope he will be fine tomorrow.”

In a way, that’s not even the most important part of the match for Barcelona. On the road in game one of a two-legged tie, the more important thing will be staying close. Barcelona need to keep the score close enough to play their normal style when the match moves to Cataluyna. They need a big day from Gerard Piqué in defense, and they’ll need strong performances from Sergio Busquets and Victor Valdes.

Any result that keeps them from falling behind by more than one goal will be a positive one. Because of their standards, Barcelona will want to win on Tuesday, but with the quality of this Bayern side, staying close away from home could be the difference between maintaining their Champions League dreams and being just another Juventus on the road to Bayern’s title.

Notes

  • Bayern’s domestic season is done, but they’re still racking up results. Gomez and Claudio Pizarro each scored twice in this weekend’s 6-1 win at Hannover.
  • Barcelona also won this weekend, albeit in less convincing fashion. Cesc Fabregas’s 84th minute goal gave the Blaugrana a 1-0 win at home against Levante.
  • Eric Abidal, coming back from a liver transplant, played 90 minutes in central defense on Saturday, though don’t expect him in Roura’s XI at Bayern. Adriano should start along side Piqué in the middle.
  • The last time the two teams met was the 2008-09 Champions League quarterfinals. Barcelona routed Bayern in the first leg on their way to a 5-1 aggregate victory.
  • Bayern returns two starters from that match: Ribery and Lahm. Barcelona could return as many as six starters: Valdes, Dani Alves, Piqué, Xavi Hernandez, Messi, and Andres Iniesta,
  • Bayern have only lost once at home to a Spanish side in Champions League play: 3-2 to Deportivo la Coruna in 2002-03.
  • Barcelona have an eight match unbeaten run on German soil, their last trip a 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in last year’s group stage.

Possible Lineups

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; David Alaba, Dante, Daniel Van Buyten, Philipp Lahm; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez; Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben; Mario Gomez.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Jordi Alba, Adriano, Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves; Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez; David Villa, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez.

Latest Posts
  1. Carlo Ancelotti weighing offer to return to AC Milan

    May 28, 2015, 8:52 PM EDT

    Carlo Ancelotti, AC Milan Carlo Ancelotti, AC Milan

    Landing Ancelotti would be the best thing AC Milan have done in years.

  2. Gulati: U.S. Soccer will vote for Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein in FIFA election, not Sepp Blatter

    May 28, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer & FIFA ExCo Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer & FIFA ExCo

    Sunil Gulati is putting his not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, with regard to much-needed reform in world soccer.

  3. Men in Blazers podcast: Talking FIFA corruption arrests, Sepp Blatter with Bob Ley

    May 28, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Bob Ley joins the Men in Blazers to talk about the FIFA arrests and decades of corruption inside world football’s governing body.

  4. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Summer transfer needs

    May 28, 2015, 4:56 PM EDT

    Paul Pogba — coming to a Premier League club near you? Paul Pogba — coming to a Premier League club near you?

    With the 2014-15 season in the books, clubs are already busy making moves for next season. Where should each club focus their efforts (and $$$)?

  5. VIDEO: PST Extra reviews the 2014-15 Premier League season

    May 28, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Going over the highs and lows, the surprises and disappointments, plus much more from the PL season that was, here’s the latest PST Extra.

  6. Premier League 2014-15 review – Top 10 games of the season

    May 28, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    Costa scored twice, as USA's Howard let in six on Saturday. AP

    Remember these 10 matches from the 2014-15 season? Here’s highlights from them all.

  7. By the numbers: 2014-15 Premier League season in review

    May 28, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    Burnley v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Burnley and Chelsea will find their names often amongst the top stat men in the Premier League this season.

  8. Steven Gerrard set to make LA Galaxy debut on July 11

    May 28, 2015, 12:57 PM EDT

    Liverpool legend will be heading to California soon, says Bruce Arena.

  9. Sepp Blatter transcript in full; admits “shame and humiliation” of FIFA scandal

    May 28, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

    65th FIFA Congress - Opening Ceremony Getty Images

    FIFA’s long-time president has addressed the congress in Zurich about the shocking allegations of corruption.

  10. UEFA could leave FIFA if Blatter stays on, as support for Prince Ali grows

    May 28, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT

    UEFA to discuss possibility of walking away from FIFA in Berlin next month.

  11. Sepp Blatter refuses to quit as FIFA president despite plea from UEFA’s Michel Platini

    May 28, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    150528_BlatterFIFAlog Getty Images

    UEFA’s chief pleads with Blatter to walk away as world soccer’s governing body is in ruins.

  12. In historic first, FIFA 16 video game to feature women’s national teams, players

    May 28, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT

    (Photo Courtesy EA Sports) (Photo Courtesy EA Sports)

    PHOTOS & VIDEO: Women’s players are available in the FIFA video game series for the first time.

  13. Rafael Benitez confirms Napoli exit, expected to take charge of Real Madrid

    May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Rafael Benítez Rafael Benítez

    Former Valencia, Liverpool boss has called time in Naples as his hometown is calling.

  14. Russia, Vladimir Putin criticize US government for “illegal persecution” of FIFA

    May 28, 2015, 7:51 AM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, Vladimir Putin Sepp Blatter, Vladimir Putin

    The Russian president finds it “odd” that the FBI is chasing down FIFA officials…

  15. MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 1-0 Real Salt Lake

    May 28, 2015, 12:53 AM EDT

    Juninho, LA Galaxy Juninho, LA Galaxy

    Juninho’s early PK is all the Galaxy need, as they climb to 4th in the Western Conference. RSL, meanwhile, are on the outside looking in.

  16. US Open Cup 3rd round roundup: MLS teams learn 4th round opponents

    May 28, 2015, 12:43 AM EDT

    DC United v Real Salt Lake - 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final Getty Images

    17 MLS teams will entire this year’s US Open Cup in the 4th round. On Wednesday, they learned who they’ll face.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 1-0 D.C. United

    May 28, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    Maximiliano Urruti, Portland Timbers Maximiliano Urruti, Portland Timbers

    Wins in May don’t get much more “must-win” than this one. PDX tops the East’s top team.

  18. Agent: Mario Balotelli “will definitely stay” at Liverpool despite disappointing first season

    May 27, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC

    According to his agent, Balotelli is going nowhere this summer. He’ll stay and fight for his place next season.

  19. FIFA ethics committee bans 11 current, former officials from all football-related activities

    May 27, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    11 current and former officials from around the world have been provisionally banned from all football-related activities.

  20. Men in Blazers podcast: Mourning the end of the season with The True Geordie

    May 27, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo relive the Premier League’s season finale, including squeaky bum time at the bottom of the table.

Featured video

PST Extra reviews the 2014-15 season