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. Mauricio Pochettino says Paulinho will stay at Spurs

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    FK Partizan v Tottenham Hotspur FC - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    The midfielder is yet to make a Premier League start this season as rumors surfaced that he could return to Brazil on loan.

  2. Chicago Fire 2-1 Houston Dynamo: Stoppage-time winner caps off Chicago comeback (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Daniel Paladini, Markus Holgersson Getty Images

    Chicago ended their season with a win as Florent Sinama-Pongolle tallied in stoppage time to erase Houston’s first half lead.

  3. AT THE HALF: Houston lead Chicago 1-0 off Omar Cummings header (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    You can watch the match live on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.

  4. Report: 76ers owner close to buying Crystal Palace

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Neil Warnock could be answering to a new boss if American billionaire Josh Harris purchases Palace.

  5. Major League Soccer suspends referee after arrest for fraud

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    Jose Carlos Rivero was charged with two felonies earlier this month but continued to work games for the MLS.

  6. WATCH: Red Bulls sign five-year-old with rare genetic disorder

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    The New York Red Bulls made a young girl’s dream come true as she signed a one-day contract with her favorite team.

  7. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch the Black Cats host the Gunners at 9:45 a.m. ET online via Live Extra.

  8. Serbia awarded win but docked points after melee against Albania

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-SRB-ALB Getty Images

    UEFA handed Serbia a 3-0 win but deducted points after their match against Albania was called off due to violence.

  9. Rio Ferdinand plans to retire after this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The former England captain and Manchester United legend plans to retire after his season at QPR.

  10. Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Leicester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch as Leicester City travels to Liberty Stadium tomorrow live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  11. Juventus agrees to new deal with Premier League transfer rumor mill mainstay Paul Pogba

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.

  12. A coach tells a fan tells a ticket rep… How soccer fans and the Red Bulls created this adorable goal video

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    newyorkredbulls.com newyorkredbulls.com

    It’s a little dusty in here. Godspeed, Irelyn. May a cure be found in short order!

  13. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  14. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  15. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  16. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  17. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

  18. An end-of-season (mostly) uncapped MLS XI for Jurgen Klinsmann’s approval

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?

  19. Two left flying MLS flag in 2015 CONCACAF Champions League quarters

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Ignacio Piatti, Connor Lade, AP

    An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.

  20. Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT

    Earle-Mustoe

    The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?