Following Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s demolition of their Spanish opponents last week, all the talk has been of a power shift in European football. And barring a miraculous comeback from Messi and co, the talk is likely to get louder.
Nothing in the history of the Champions League suggests Barcelona will reach their third final in five years – no team has ever advanced to the next round after losing a Champions League or European tie by four or more goals.
But if one team is going to break that record it would be Barcelona and they will take inspiration from their 2009 team that beat tonight’s opponents 4-0 in the quarter-finals. The Catalans were 4-0 up by half time, and if that is the case tonight then we are in for a classic. That, however, was a first leg tie and with the Bavarians defending a four goal lead, it is likely to be an unadventurous display by the visitors.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has insisted he will field a full strength team despite six of his players being one booking away from missing the final. After three key players missed their final defeat to Chelsea last year, Heynckes has told his players to watch their discipline at the Nou Camp.
Captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Dante, Mario Gomez and Luiz Gustavo, who missed last year’s final, all need to avoid picking up a yellow card.
The Bundesliga champions will be the more rested of the two sides. Heynckes rested a number of players in their 1-0 victory over Freiburg at the weekend but Tito Vilanova was not afforded that luxury as Barcelona are yet to clinch the La Liga title. Despite fielding a strong team, Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw by Athletico Bilbao and must wait another week to wrap up their 22nd La Liga title.
But with an 11 point lead on Real Madrid in second place, Barcelona can afford to throw everything they can at Bayern Munich to try and overturn the four goal deficit. They will be encouraged by Real’s effort to overhaul their three goal deficit against Dortmund last night, but will have to score earlier than the 82nd minute if they stand any chance. Expect a much more urgent Barcelona performance than last week, when they managed just one shot on target despite having 55 per cent of possession.
KICK-OFF: Wednesday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS...
Bayern Munich 4 (Muller 2, Gomez, Robben) Barcelona 0, Champions League, semi-final first leg, April 2013.
Bayern Munich 1 (Ribery) Barcelona 1 (Keita), Champions League, quarter final second leg, April 2009.
Barcelona 4 (Messi 2, Eto’o, Henry) Bayern Munich 0, Champions League, quarter final first leg, April 2009.
Last time Barcelona progressed following a first leg semi-final defeat in Europe was in 1986 against Gothenburg. The Catalans lost 3-0 in Sweden but recovered at the Nou Camp to force a penalty shoot-out, which they won.
Barcelona have won just once in seven competitive matches against Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich are the competition’s top scorers with 26 goals. Barcelona are fifth with 18.
Lionel Messi has scored 44 per cent of Barcelona’s goals in the Champions League this season.
12 of Messi’s 59 Champions League goals have come against German opposition.
Barcelona to win: 1.86
Bayern Munich to win: 4.2
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1 at 7.45pm.