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. Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:

  2. Wayne Rooney hands Manchester United boost, will return vs. old club Everton

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    Two goals from Wayne Rooney in the first half helped United to a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. AP

    Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:

  3. MLS Insider: Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman – Pair of Aces

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

    Art by J McQuade Art by J McQuade

    Beckerman and Bradley; the perfect midfield combination for the USMNT?

  4. Week 7 Preview: Fire look for first win vs. Revs; Dallas gets its crack at Toronto

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT

    jhon_kennedy_hurtado_felipe AP

    MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.

  5. How stacked can the West get? In three years, MLS’s conferences will be much more uneven

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    Think MLS’s conferences are unbalanced now? Let me offer you a glimpse at 2017.

  6. Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    Aston_Villa_Logo_851684732

    An American consortium has a deal to buy the club from Randy Lerner, if it can avoid relegation.

  7. ‘Large-scale back tattoo’ has sidelined John Brooks

    Apr 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT

    JABrooks-Getty Getty Images

    The 21-year-old U.S. international appears to have underestimated the impact of an in-season tattoo.

  8. Tim Howard inks Everton extension, signs through 2017-18 season

    Apr 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    everton_tim_howard

    U.S. number one signs extension that will take him through the next World Cup cycle.

  9. Arsenal welcome back Mesut Özil, predict German will be “Player of the Season” next year

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Arsenal's Ozil reacts during their Champions League soccer match against Napoli at the Emirates stadium in London

    Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:

  10. Looking at the run-in for La Liga’s title contenders

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT

    Diego Costa AP

    Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.

  11. Daniel Sturridge out injured for Liverpool, as Reds hold their breath

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Danny Sturridge is the Premier League Player of the Month for February for his performances for Liverpool. Getty Images

    England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?

  12. Winless Watch: Which MLS team’s most likely to break through this weekend?

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?

  13. Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool or Chelsea for the title? – Week 34

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard AP

    Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?

  14. Neymar, Jordi Alba to miss the rest of Barcelona’s season

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT

    neymar AP

    Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.

  15. Wild Greek Cup match delayed for flares, sees three red cards

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    BenchFlare AP

    Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…

  16. Could Guardiola leave Bayern for a Barca return? Cruyff wants Pep back

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Guardiola AP

    With Guardiola not taking kindly to criticism from the front office, could the former Barcelona boss return to the Camp Nou?

  17. Manchester: A city not united, as Blue and Red converge

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Can Manuel Pellegrini bring Premier League success to the Etihad? Reuters

    For decades Manchester United have been the top dogs in Manchester, now that’s changing. PST’s Editor and Lead Writer went behind the scenes to see what Mancunians are all about:

  18. PST Extra: Race for the Premier League title

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    Can Brendan Rodgers and company make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed to the prize at the end? Chelsea seem like the biggest hurdle. Our very own Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville discuss.

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title