Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Germans have the belief to cast Barça in strange new role of Champions League underdogs

All omens favour the Germans in tonight's semi-final meeting of European superpowers

Tonight at the Allianz Arena will be different and unfamiliar for Barcelona, even though it is their sixth consecutive Champions League semi-final. Because, for the first time in years, they are the underdogs. Bayern Munich, untouchable in the Bundesliga, must be firm favourites at home against a team that, for all their success, have often struggled on the road in Europe.

Follow all the news the news on tonight's semi-final first leg: Champions League: Bayern Munich v Barcelona - LIVE!

Since this Barcelona team came into being with the appointment of Pep Guardiola in summer 2008, they have done their best knockout work at the Nou Camp. Even in their gloriously successful last five years, under Guardiola and Tito Vilanova, their away record is poor. Of their last 14 knockout away legs, since the last-16 ties of February 2009, Barça have won just three.

Of those three wins, only one was truly meaningful, a famous triumph at this stage two years ago when Barcelona won 2-0 at Real Madrid. The other two were certainly less significant: a 1-0 quarter-final win at Shakhtar Donetsk in 2011 after the tie had been thoroughly won in Barcelona, and a breezy 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen last February.

But the other 11 games have been, more often than not, tight score draws or even defeats.

Barcelona cannot always exert the same control over possession on the road, or play with the same fluency. Or maybe they just trust themselves to do the job at home. In the last 16 this year, they were well beaten 2-0 in Milan before playing brilliantly to win the second leg 4-0 at the Nou Camp. In the quarter-finals, Barça were held to a stormy 2-2 draw away to Paris St-Germain before a one-legged Lionel Messi was summoned from the bench to salvage a 1-1 draw at home which sent them through. The Argentine will certainly start tonight.

"We have to try and take him out of the game and stay close to him," said the Bayern midfielder Javi Martinez, who, after years in La Liga with Athletic Bilbao, will at least know what he is letting himself in for.

Recent history, then, does not exactly argue for a Barcelona win tonight. Nor does the fact that they are facing Europe's form team. Bayern Munich are the first champions of a major league this season, having taken an astonishing 81 points from a possible 90. They were brilliant in their first leg at Arsenal, but poor in the second, and twice outplayed a very adept Juventus side to win 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

"This season, we've built up enough belief in ourselves to cope with Barcelona," said Philipp Lahm, the Bayern captain. "We're aiming to win. Once you've made the semis, you want to progress to the final."

Bayern look like a team close to peaking, which makes their potential next season under Guardiola faintly terrifying. But after the pain of Champions League final defeats in 2010 and 2012, there may well be an extra edge to them this season. Martinez has been an exceptional addition, forming the game's most authoritative, powerful engine room alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Their usual midfield partner, the brilliant Toni Kroos, is injured so Jupp Heynckes is more likely to call on the pace of Arjen Robben. Robben's direct, blinkered style can look slightly out of place in such a well-developed unit as Bayern but he might be effective tonight. Barcelona looked uncertain against pace on the break against Milan and Paris, and tonight – with Marc Bartra at centre-back – they could be even weaker. With Robben, Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller, Bayern could mix their usual control with something more explosive.

Bayern feel that after years of progress, they are ready to look the brilliant Catalans in the eye. "We face a huge challenge," Lahm said. "For many years Barcelona have been the best and the team to beat. But this is a meeting between equals, and we have the right kind of players to hurt Barcelona."

Kick-off Tonight, 7.45pm, Allianz Arena. TV ITV 1

Referee V Kassai (Hun) *one booking from ban

Odds: Home 5-4 Draw 13-5 Away 13-5

Follow all the news the news on tonight's semi-final first leg: Champions League: Bayern Munich v Barcelona - LIVE!

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager