FC Barcelona will be seeking retribution when they play hosts to Bayern Munich on the opening day of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League.
FC Barcelona will kick-start their 2021/22 UEFA Champions League campaign on Tuesday, when they welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou. It will be a rematch of the 2019/20 Champions League quarter-final, with wounds still fresh after an 8-2 beating that ensued chaos in the Catalan camp, leading to a new president, coach, a squad overhaul and the departure of Lionel Messi.
After one and a half year of rebuilding, though, Barcelona are still not in a better shape than they were when these two last met. But on a bright note, the hosts have performed rather well in Laliga, securing seven points in three matches. They will be looking to use that momentum to snatch at least a point in this crucial match-up.
Unfortunately for Blaugrana, their midweek opponent Bayern Munich are heading into this game on the back of a five game-winning run that included DFB Supercup victory over Borussia Dortmund, a 12-0 win over SV Bremer and most recently, a 4-1 thumping of Champions League outfit and last season’s Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig.
Ideally, Ronald Koeman will be primarily hoping to snatch a point against the Bavarians. But given the stark difference in quality, mindset and form between the two sides, the Dutchman will be realistically prioritising the avoidance of another humiliation, this time in front of their own supporters at Camp Nou.
Koeman does have the advantage of experience over his Bayern counterpart Julian Nagelsmann. But the 34-year-old did lead RB Leipzig to the Champions League final during the 2019/20 campaign and is a tactical genius who has further strengthened the club’s technical game.
It essentially means Barcelona will be bizarrely heading into the game as underdogs, in front of their home fans, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their blockbuster encounter at Camp Nou this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
❝𝑩𝒂𝒚𝒆𝒓𝒏 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚 𝒈𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒕 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒑𝒉𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈.❞
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 13, 2021
Barcelona are missing some significant firepower in the form of Sergio Aguero, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. All three have been ruled out due to injury, which further complicates problems for a Barca attack that has already faced criticism for being too predictable.
Memphis Depay has been the lone bright star in an otherwise dire and toothless offensive unit. But now with Martin Braithwaite out with a serious injury, the Dutchman will have to play alongside the injury-plagued Philippe Coutinho and the much-maligned new signing Luuk de Jong. Yusuf Demir is an interesting option, but Koeman has appeared reluctant to put his faith in makeshift wingers like him.
In the midfield department, Koeman is fortunate enough to have the preferred trio of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri available. It appears likely that Busquets will slot in between the centre-backs during defensive phases while the onus of providing creativity in the final third will be on Pedri and de Jong.
Barcelona’s overwhelming focus on playing from the centre, though, could hurt their chances of breaching the Bayern Munich backline. As such, it will be interesting to see Koeman utilise his two fullbacks.
Busquets dropping deep will allow the two wide defenders to march forward. But unfortunately, both Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest are doubts heading into this game. While there is optimism over Alba making the starting eleven, the same cannot be said for Dest, who is likely to be replaced by the more defensive-minded Oscar Mingueza.
The young defender should play a vital role in offering aid to the central defenders in Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique, who remains likely to make the starting eleven despite his knock against Athletic Bilbao. His experience will go a long way in helping Barca remain resilient at the back and provide cover for Marc Andre ter Stegen in between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Pique, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F.de Jong; Depay, L.de Jong, Coutinho
Bayern Munich won’t have to deal with too many injury problems heading into this game, but their key player Serge Gnabry did pick up a knock against Leipzig. He remains a doubt for Tuesday, potentially joining Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso in the club’s list of absentees for this game.
Fortunately for Nagelsmann, he has an ideal replacement in the form of Jamal Musiala. The former Chelsea prodigy has set the Bundesliga alight with his exploits in the final third and is expected to replace Gnabry at right-wing. He will form Bayern’s creative trifecta alongside Thomas Muller and the now in-form Leroy Sane.
🗣️ @J__Nagelsmann: "They've no longer got someone as extravagant as Messi, but they have other players who can make a difference. We are prepared for everything. I'm not of the opinion that they are a lot worse off now. In any case, we definitely want three points."#FCBFCB pic.twitter.com/IdmOLocoPB
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) September 13, 2021
The Bavarian attack, on the other hand, should be spearheaded by none other than Robert Lewandowski. Already a scorer of eight goals in five competitive appearances, the Polish international was taken off early in the Leipzig game. He will be hungry to kickstart his Champions League campaign on a positive note this midweek.
Much like Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka, too, was subbed relatively early by Nagelsmann to keep him fresh for the Barcelona clash. The former Schalke midfielder is set to renew his partnership with Joshua Kimmich at the base of Bayern’s 4-2-3-1.
However, things get way more interesting department, where the club has recently been boosted by the return of Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. It gives Nagelsmann an interesting decision to make, knowing he could unleash Alphonso Davies, the left-back, by adding an extra body in defence rather than a traditional fullback on the right hand side.
This is where Niklas Sule comes into the fray and may even operate as a right-back, with Hernandez and Dayot Upamecano operating alongside. It will allow Bayern to switch to a back-three when necessary, with Davies joining in attack and Hernandez and Sule moving into a bit wider role.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Sule, Upamecano, Hernandez, Davies; Kimmich, Goretzka; Musiala, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
- This is the first meeting between Barcelona and Bayern Munich since the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League quarter-final, an 8-2 win for Munich in what was Barca’s heaviest defeat since April 1951, a 6-0 reverse against Espanyol.
- In all major European competition, Barcelona have lost seven matches against Bayern Munich, three more than they have against any other side (P11 W2 D2 L7). Their two wins against the Bavarians came in home first-leg Champions League knockout ties, 4-0 in April 2009 and 3-0 in May 2015.
- Barcelona and Bayern Munich haven’t met in the UEFA Champions League group stages since 1998/99, with Barca losing both matches and going out after finishing third in the group that year, one of only three instances of the Catalonian side going out in the group stages, along with 1997/98 and 2000/01.
- Bayern Munich are unbeaten in their last 18 away Champions League matches, their longest undefeated run in the history of the European Cup/Champions League.
- Barcelona haven’t lost their opening match in a Champions League campaign since going down 3-2 at St. James’ Park against Newcastle United in 1997/98 under Louis van Gaal – they are unbeaten in their opening match in 22 campaigns since (W17 D5).
Player to Watch
In a game like this, the spotlight will immediately be on the likes of Lewandowski, Depay or Frenkie de Jong, but one player who is capable of dictating the result of the game is Alphonso Davies. The young left-back from Canada is indeed a vital cog in the game, not just for Bayern Munich, but for Barcelona as well.
Davies has enjoyed immense success this season under the leadership of Nagelsmann, who has been able to get the best out of his pace and ability to drive in crosses into this box. It could be very useful for the likes of Lewandowski and Goretzka who like to attack the box when the ball is out wide.
For Barcelona, it is not a good sign at all, as they are already quite short-handed on the right flank, with Dest likely to miss out. The young Mingueza and Araujo are certainly talented defenders, but the task of keeping Davies and Sane on check throughout the ninety minutes could be a bit too difficult this midweek.
Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Given the result, quality and mentality of the two sides, it is hard to forecast anything other than a Bayern Munich win on Tuesday. In other words, Barcelona are simply not strong enough to compete with the Bavarian giants, and have already shown too much weaknesses that the opposition is sure to exploit.
Especially in the defensive department, the hosts are likely to fumble while defending the likes of Sane, Muller, Lewandowski and Musiala. They will also need to be careful of Goretzka and Kimmich, which is a bit too much for a team who are going to rely on the services of Luuk de Jong in the goalscoring department.
However, we do expect Barcelona to score at least once as Bayern can be very fragile at times. But at the same time, we are predicting a comfortable 3-1 victory for Nagelsmann’s men this midweek.