On Wednesday night one of the biggest games of the season is going to take place, two of the biggest clubs in the world go head to head when FC Barcelona play FC Bayern Munich. They are two of the most dominant teams in Europe right now and both sides sit top of their respective leagues. This fixture will be the first time these two sides have met in a competitive fixture since Bayern Munich destroyed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate at this stage two years ago. A lot has changed since these two sides last met perhaps most notably Bayern Munich’s appointment of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s former manager, as their new manager in 2013. This tie is sure to be a much closer contest than the last one with Barcelona the current favourites to progress.
Barcelona go into this match on the back of an incredible run of form this year with 26 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses in all competitions in 2015. Barcelona have won their last five games by an aggregate score of 20-0 this includes fixtures against PSG and Valencia. They won their last two league games 6-0 and 8-0 with their Messi, Suarez and Neymar (MSN) strike force scoring over half the goals in these two games. Barca’s front three are clearly in incredible form with a combined total of over 100 goals this season meaning they could easily be considered the best attack in world football right now.
Barcelona have only suffered one defeat in this seasons competition and that was against PSG in the group stage whom they just defeated in the last round. Barcelona have only conceded seven goals in ten games and they have scored 23, they have won all of their fixtures at the Nou Camp in European competitions this season and they look almost unstoppable right now. Bayern will have an incredibly tough job to get anything out of the first leg.
Bayern Munich head into the tie after an unusually poor series of games. They have lost four of their last ten matches including being knocked out of the German Cup by their rivals Dortmund. Bayern lost their last two games 2-0 away to Bayer Leverkusen and the loss on penalties to Dortmund in the Cup. Overall Bayern have had a great season domestically as they’ve already claimed the league title but their form has started to unravel recently due to injuries to key players.
Bayern Munich performed well in the group stages of the Champions League but they haven’t had as difficult ties
Bayern have also won all of their home games in Europe and they have only conceded eight goals in their ten games, although Munich’s away record in this seasons Champions League is quite poor. Aside from the 7-1 thrashing of Roma they just edged a game against CSKA Moscow 1-0 in Russia, they lost at Man City, drew 0-0 away to Shakhtar and lost 3-1 to Porto in Portugal. Many believed after their first leg loss to Porto that Bayern wouldn’t make it to the semi-finals, it’s only thanks to their excellent home record and their ability to turn on the style in the second leg and take their opponents apart that they are still in the competition.
Heading into the first leg Barcelona’s only real concern is left back Jordi Alba who has been training alone as he has a slight injury but it’s being reported that he should be fit in time for the game on Wednesday. If Alba is able to play then Barcelona can field their first choice eleven which will likely feature Ter Stegen in goal as he has played in all of their Champions league fixtures this season. Bayern on the other hand have multiple injury concerns with David Alaba, Arjen Robben and Holger Badstuber all definitely ruled out; Franck Ribery and Sebastian Rode both unlikely to play; Robert Lewandoski playing with a face mask and Javi Martinez only just back from injury. Bayern Munich are likely to struggle as they will have to pick a depleted side which has lead to inconsistent results in recent games. Munich’s injury problems have been well documented with most of the medical team quitting last month due to arguments over injuries. The injury to Arjen Robben on his comeback against Dortmund was a massive blow to their chances of progressing from this tie as he has been one of their key players this season and would’ve been a real threat to Barcelona on the counter.
When you take all the factors into consideration Barcelona have got to be clear favourites for the first leg and they could put several goals past a weakened Bayern team. Neymar could have a vital role to play as Bayern often look vulnerable on the wings especially against quick pacey counter attacks. This will suit Barcelona as under Luis Enrique’s management Barcelona tend to transition from defence to attack much quicker. The finishing of the Brazilian forward could determine how well Barcelona perform, he has a good scoring record this season but he missed many chances against Man City and his finishing is often erratic. Bayern have been quite unpredictable in the Champions League this season so you never know what kind of performance they will produce, they have scored 19 goals in just three of their games and only ten goals in their other seven matches.
Overall the tie will probably be decided in the second leg but if Barcelona hit their stride in the first game then they could produce an incredible result. Barcelona could well match Porto’s feats by winning the first leg 3-1 but Guardiola knows the Barcelona team and the players so maybe he can mastermind an upset. The return of Thiago and Guardiola to the Nou Camp will be interesting to witness as well as the possibility of Thiago having to face his younger brother Rafinha. Ultimately I believe Barcelona will prevail they are easily capable of winning the first leg 3-1 or 4-1 and they should have enough to hold out in the second leg barring another incredible turnaround from Bayern.