Apr 23, 2013, 5:01 AM EST
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.”
That 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.
- 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.
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.
Dec 12, 2013, 5:31 PM EST
Like other notable quality American outfielders (e.g. Clint Dempsey), Cameron is a late-developer who has really evolved.
Dec 12, 2013, 4:38 PM EST
D.C. United upgraded half their defense on Thursday. But what are they getting for the money?
Dec 12, 2013, 3:38 PM EST
We saw this coming. Portland traded up on Thursday to snare the former Zip.
Early approval: Klinsmann extends contract, will serve as U.S. head coach, technical director through 2018
Dec 12, 2013, 3:01 PM EST
Klinsmann’s signed up for another cycle, the U.S. hoping to extend its evolution beyond Brazil.
Dec 12, 2013, 2:01 PM EST
This marks the first time a Bundesliga club has played in the league’s summer showcase.
Dec 12, 2013, 1:05 PM EST
Two big questions this weekend: 1) Can Spurs stop Luis Suarez? and
2) Does City’s midfield rival that of Arsenal?
Dec 12, 2013, 10:26 AM EST
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, Young says, but “for me, the referees have made decisions and that’s it.”
Dec 12, 2013, 9:15 AM EST
Would Moyes really loan Zaha to a competitor like Everton or Newcastle?
Dec 12, 2013, 8:01 AM EST
When looking back at the biggest UK Twitter “surges” of 2013 there is one topic that dominates the landscape: footy.
Dec 11, 2013, 11:46 PM EST
You can’t been drawn against a team from your own federation – a rule that will hurt Arsenal, Manchester City on Monday.
Dec 11, 2013, 10:24 PM EST
The defenses need to get better in both places. A lot better:
No, the South Florida team will NOT be “Miami Beckham United;” plus the MLS news roundup for Dec. 11
Dec 11, 2013, 9:23 PM EST
A little social media brush fire over the new Miami expansion outfit was promptly, mercifully extinguished:
Dec 11, 2013, 8:33 PM EST
Highlights from all Wednesday’s games, which saw Barça’s newest start break out, Italy’s reigning champions eliminated.
Dec 11, 2013, 7:46 PM EST
Once you narrow the list to 15 or so, it’s nearly impossible to decide from there:
Dec 11, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
That assumes, of course, that the former U.S. manager was ever a serious candidate:
Dec 11, 2013, 6:11 PM EST
Tough draws await Arsenal, Manchester City in the knockout round.
Dec 11, 2013, 5:31 PM EST
Demba Ba’s 10th minute goal was enough to give Chelsea Group E.
Dec 11, 2013, 4:47 PM EST
Brazilian star’s hat trick helps Barcelona rout Celtic, claim first in Group H.
Dec 11, 2013, 4:43 PM EST
One good club from Group F was bound to be odd team out on Wednesday as Champions League group play finished with a high-wire tension.
Dec 11, 2013, 3:32 PM EST
There’s more to “coaching discussions” right now in domestic soccer than those four MLS openings:
- MLS Re-Entry Draft: As predicted, Portland find a way to get Steve Zakuani 3
- Early approval: Klinsmann extends contract, will serve as U.S. head coach, technical director through 2018 3
- MLS announces Bayern Munich as opponent for 2014 All-Star Game in Portland 4
- WATCH: Can Tottenham stop Luis Suarez and can City beat Arsenal? 0
- UK Twitter chat in 2013 dominated by soccer. Good thing or bad thing? 2
- UEFA rules set up Arsenal, Manchester City for tough Champions League Round of 16 draws 3
- 2014 World Cup Draw: Recapping the event (43)
- 2014 World Cup Draw: USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues (34)
- Now that we know the U.S. opponents, which 23 players should Jurgen Klinsmann bring to Brazil? (21)
- Sporting Kansas City crowned 2013 MLS champions after 10 rounds of penalty kicks (16)
- U.S. national team discussion: The Alejandro Bedoya conundrum (14)
- Giovani: "We Were Over Criticized"
- Watch Out Netherlands! Chile-Clan Ain't Nothin' to Mess With!
- Messi on Safe Track to Full Recovery
- The Argentinian Armada, Favorites for Brazil 2014
- Brazil 2014: A Look At South America
- Arena de Amazonia: Host of USA vs CR7
- USA Will Advance in Brazil
- You Can't Beat German Sachlichkeit
- Group B: No Walk In The Park
- Analyzing The Draw From An Azzurri Viewpoint