FC BAYERN MUNICH
Camp Nou, Barcelona
May 1, 2013; 18:45 GMT
What should have been the most eagerly awaited encounter in this year’s Champions League football has now been turned into an operation for FC Barcelona to save their tarnishing reputation as the best club in world football. Bayern Munich in their 4-0 mauling did not just win the match, but according to some ended an era and started a glorious chapter in their illustrious history.
Gerard Pique could not have been more straight forward when he counted his chances against Bayern Munich in the return leg as ‘almost impossible’. Bayern Munich have been playing the best football throughout the year and barring a slight blemish against Arsenal, they have been unbeatable.
Jupp Heynckes has had to answer uncomfortable questions since Bayern announced Pep Guardiola as their coach next season. But he is determined to leave on a high. He has got his team peaking at the right time and his players look fresher than ever. They outclassed Barcelona individually and as a team further enhancing their status as the favorites for the trophy this year.
Barcelona have had a very unconventional season thus far. In the first half, the Catalans looked unbeatable and were heading for a record breaking season until Tito Vilanova was affected by a cancer relapse. It affected the club in quite a big way and Barcelona have not been the same since then. His return to the dug out has been a great sight but this team looks worn out and tired, lacking the intensity they previously had. It can be attributed to many reasons but against Bayern Munich, there cannot be any excuses.
Team News and Tactical Brief
History is against them. No team has overturned a four-goal first-leg deficit in Champions League history. They don’t have an away goal. Their captain is injured.
In addition to that, Jordi Alba is suspended denying Barcelona his wonderful over lapping runs and thus reducing their threat on the left flank. Adriano is back and is expected to feature in Jordi Alba’s absence. Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol are both injured and considering how poor Marc Bartra was in the first leg, Eric Abidal is expected to feature alongside Gerard Pique.
It is a miracle that Abidal has returned to competitive football and his presence is sure to illuminate the supporters and the players alike. He has demonstrated his prowess in a couple of matches in La Liga and even played out full 90 minutes indicating how fit and ready he is. Dani Alves will feature on the right flank.
The midfield will be occupied by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. While Xavi did try to make something happen in the first leg, Busquets was run over by the physicality and technicality of Javi Martinez’s play and inturn had no effect on the game.
Alexis Sanchez has not had any great impact in Barcelona’s big matches and could be dropped in favor of David Villa. David Villa’s game play and movement in the 4-0 victory over AC Milan was exemplary enabling Messi to move into spaces and increase his influence on the game. Tito Vilanova will be hoping to replicate the same against Bayern Munich.
Dante was terrific in nullifying Messi and throwing Villa into the mix may give much needed breathing space to Messi and help him grow into the match. Pedro will, as usual, make his forays late into the box and his off-the-ball movement and work ethic will cause problems to Bayern Munich.
There is also an option to start Fabregas in a 4-4-2 diamond but Fabregas and Messi operate in the same space on the pitch and hence the chances are slim. The former Arsenal captain will surely play his part at some point in the game but when and where will be depending a lot on the circumstances.
Barcelona have no other way of playing except going all out in this encounter. They cannot afford to play conservatively at any moment in the match and one away for Bayern Munich and derail their hopes of winning this tie. Gerard Pique has to stand up and lead his defense in the absence of Carles Puyol.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Abidal, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa
There is no doubt that the Bavarian club are the outright favorites to clinch this tie. Their form this season has been unbelievable and they have been swatting opponents at will.
Jupp Heynckes will be unable to use the services of Toni Kroos but barring him he will have most of his first team for selection. The manager will have no qualms over his team selection as most of the players from the first-leg are expected to feature.
Lahm, Boateng, Dante and Alaba will protect their custodian Manuel Neuer. Dante was terrific in the first-leg and his reputations soars with each performance. Javi Martinez was undoubtedly the winner in the midfield battle against Busquets providing great passing ability as well as defensive solidity alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Arjen Robben put on a matured performance in the first-leg and with Kroos missing, he will play on the right as an inverted winger pushing the brilliant but subtle Thomas Muller into the centre. Ribery will take over the left flank.
Mario Gomez was decent in the first-leg but he was chosen because Mandzukic was suspended. With Mandzukic back in reckoning, Gomez will be relegated to the bench.
Barca have no option but to go all out in this match. Bayern will only have to be patient and not lose control of the match and move the ball to Robben or Robery as much as possible to hit the home team on the counter.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Muller, Ribery; Mandzukic
Player To Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
The Argentine genius was hardly involved in the first leg and his lack of match fitness was evident. But Barcelona will need more than magic from Lionel Messi. They need to stage a comeback of a lifetime; 98000 people in the stadium will be hoping for their talisman to swagger to the roars and applause of them. Lionel Messi is perfectly capable of delivering in such scenarios and his entire team will look to him for inspiration.
FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Bayern Munich
Barcelona can win this match but Bayern Munich are no push-overs. the home team did stage a great comeback against AC Milan in the earlier round but this Bayern Munich is way more capable than that Milan squad. And Barca dont even have an away goal. One goal for Bayern and Barcelona will consider themselves finished in the tie. A victory for Barcelona and Bayern Munich advancing to the final is a sane prediction.
Blast From The Past