Camp Nou, Barcelona
Wednesday 5th May, 2015, 20:45 GMT
All eyes will be on Pep Guardiola on Wednesday night when he takes his Bayern Munich side to the Camp Nou – a venue where he served Barcelona with such distinction as both a player and a head coach. There will be no room for sentiment in this first-leg encounter, though, with a place in the final of the Champions League at stake. Guardiola will be returning to his former club for the first time since his departure at the end of the 2011/12 season. Emotions might run high for Pep, but his starting eleven and strategies will be closely scrutinized by one and all. Luis Enrique might not have pleased Lionel Messi and a few others at the beginning of the season, but now, he has his sights firmly set on the treble.
Team news and tactics
Played five, scored 20 and conceded none – that is the form that Barcelona take into their clash with the German champions. Having hammered Getafe 6-0 at the end of last month,Luis Enrique’s men went two better against Cordoba at the weekend as they hit their hosts for eight ensuring their relegation from top flight. Three of those goals were scored by Luis Suarez, who seems to have now found his feet following his big-money summer switch from Liverpool. The Uruguayan international has scored five goals in his last two outings and 10 in eight appearances. His form as part of the attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, who have scored a record-breaking 108 goals between them this term, sees Barca top the La Liga standings and has also been a major reason behind their positive displays in the Champions League.
Barcelona are a particularly imposing force in front of their own supporters at the Camp Nou, where they have lost just once in their last 32 UEFA competition matches, winning on 25 occasions.Ironically, Bayern Munich inflicted that defeat back in 2013. Overall, the Catalans have played host to German opponents on 25 occasions, from which they have recorded 17 wins and suffered seven defeats. Barcelona thrashed Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 on aggregate in the last round. Luis Enrique has a virtually clean of bill of health as far as his squad is concerned. That means that he must pick between who starts at centre-back out of Gerard Pique, Javier Mascheranoand Jeremy Mathieu, with the former two of that trio the favourites to be given the nod. Between the posts, as has been tradition in the Champions League this term, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will deputise for number one goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3):Ter Stegen(Gk); Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi, Neymar
The man who oversaw Barca’s most successful ever period returns to the Nou Camp as the Bayern manager tonight. During what was a golden four-year period at the helm in Catalonia, Barca won no fewer than 14 trophies, including the Champions League on two occasions. Yet, every manager has a ceiling and in 2012 Guardiola decided that he had taken his boyhood club as far as he could. A 12-month sabbatical followed, before he took up the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of Jupp Heynckes, who had just guided Bayern to a treble. Unsurprisingly, five trophies have followed – one of which was this year’s Bundesliga title. Guardiola, though, wants more, particularly after his side were humbled in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Real Madrid last season.
The 5-0 aggregate thrashing remains the biggest defeat of Guardiola’s managerial career and it is known to be a driving factor behind his desire to make amends this time around. However, if Guardiola is to topple his former employers, his side will have to improve upon their recent uncharacteristic patchy form. They may have thrashed Porto 6-1 in the second leg of the quarter-finals, but that was only after they had suffered a 3-1 loss in the first meeting. A much-changed Bayern team were defeated 2-0 away at Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend. Such results could well be a cause of concern for Guardiola as he prepares for the business end of the season. Not only is Guardiola’s injury list an extensive one, it has also robbed him of some of his key players for this encounter. Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who has flourished under Guardiola’s management, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a calf injury that he suffered during his comeback game against Borussia Dortmund last month. Defenders David Alaba and Holger Badstuber will also play no part, while Guardiola also has doubts as to the availability of both Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski, the latter of whom is suffering with a broken nose. Javi Martinez returned to action following a cruciate knee ligament injury at the weekend, but a match of such magnitude is likely to be too much for the Spanish midfielder, who will start on the bench. Thiago Alcantara is due to feature, though, having swapped Barca for Bayern in the summer of 2013.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1):Neuer(Gk); Bernat, Benatia, Boateng, Rafinha; Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Alonso; Thiago, Muller; Lewandowski
- Four-time winners Barcelona are seeking their eighth final appearance.
- Five-time winners Bayern are attempting to reach their 11th final.
- Barcelona have won all five home games in this season’s UEFA Champions League, including a 2-0 success over Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals. They are unbeaten at home in the competition since crashing to Bayern in 2013 a the sole reverse in their last 32 UEFA Champions League home matches, of which 25 have been victories.
- Bayern suffered a 5-0 aggregate defeat by Real Madrid at this stage last season but have won five of their seven European Cup semi-finals against Spanish teams.
- The Blaugrana have an overall home record of W19 D1 L7 against Bundesliga sides.
- Bayern’s overall record against Spanish opponents in two-legged contests in UEFA competition is W9 L7.
- Barcelona are in their seventh UEFA Champions League semi-final in the last eight seasons.
- This is Bayern’s fourth semi-final in the past five campaigns.
- Barcelona have won 36 of their last 40 games in all competitions, and 15 of their past 16.
Players to Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Messi, Suarez and Neymar have scored a combined 100 goals in all competitions, but the former Liverpool forward deserves special credit for settling in so quickly.The Uruguayan has been decisive in front of goal as usual and is combining with deadly effects to decimate Barca’s opponents.
Thomas MA?ller (Bayern Munich)
Muller at the age of 25 has won a Champions League, World Cup and was also the highest goal scorer in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Barcelona’s defenders will have the difficult task of preventing him from making his intelligent runs behind defenders tonight.
Barcelona 2a 1 Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich may have won the Bundesliga recently, but their form has not been great of late and it seems that injuries are starting to take their toll. In contrast, Barcelona are flying and will be in confident mood heading into this tie.
Blast From the Past
The most memorable games between the two sides were played after Guardiola’s departure from Barcelona in 2013. After winning the first leg 4-0 in Germany, Bayern finished off the job by hammering Barcelona 3-0 in Spain.