Battle of the Bigs
FC Bayern Munich host FC Barcelona in the Champions League Semifinal, 1st Leg
Allianz Arena, Munich – Here’s what we know at THIS moment. Bayern and Barcelona are two of the best teams in Europe. Both are favorites to win this season’s Champions League. Lionel Messi is the world’s best footballer.
What we don’t know, if Messi will play on Tuesday night. If he does, even for a few minutes, then it is safe to say Barcelona should win. Just ask Paris Saint-Germain. The four-time FIFA player of the year injured his hamstring on April 2nd and has missed all action for his club except for the deciding moments during the quarterfinal, scoring goals to eliminate the French side.
Assistant Jordi Roura confirmed at Monday’s pre-match press conference that Messi has not yet been cleared by the medical staff. “We have a good feeling but we have to wait for the final word from the doctors,” said Roura. “The team plays better because of a player like Messi and he can be decisive in matches.”
Messi’s teammate Xavi Hernández agrees. “Messi is the best player in the world. He is very important to us, he can make a difference.” But what is lost, with or without Messi, Barcelona can still field a dangerous team against Bayern, one capable of stealing not only a goal or two, but perhaps a win in the opening leg. The lineup reads a who’s who of stars – Xavi, Fabregas, David Villa, Iniesta.
Despite this stacked squad, they fell short last year of the Final, losing to eventual winner’s Chelsea FC in the semifinal. Has the team learned from that shocker and will they apply it against their opponent over the two legs? Fox Soccer analyst Mauricio Cardenas discusses that point at the press conference:
Sport Eagle TV Preview – Bayern Munich vs. FC Barcelona, Champions League, Semifinal, 1st Leg
Bayern are champions of the Bundesliga, this we also know. But they too have to overcome a ‘cruel’ defeat, in last year’s Final, as described by team captain Philipp Lahm, in the very arena they call home. They are virtually unbeatable at home, scoring at a torrid pace, but that was also the case in the Champions League last year, until that warm night in May, giving up a late tying goal to Didier Drogba and then losing their nerve in penalties. Bayern have struggled, or dare it be said, ‘choked’, in similar situations – the 2010 Champions League Final and the 2011 Quarterfinals – both against Inter Milan. This could once again happen Tuesday night, and most likely next week in the second leg at Camp Nou.
“I would suggest that you ask your German colleagues in the press (if we have recovered from last year’s Final),” stated Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes. “I told them back in January that Bayern play the most modern and up-to-date football in their history.” And he has already the title and the state of play to prove that.
With seven weeks to go in the season, Bayern wrapped up the league title back on April 6th, just missing out by a week to clinch the championship the earliest ever. They booked a spot in the domestic cup final last week after destroying Wolfsburg – yes, at home. And now, a year removed from playing in the final, Heynckes has the team on the doorstep for a historic treble – the first German team to do it.
The stage is set for what should be an exciting, pulsating, and nail-biting semifinal. This we know.
Who wins? We shall know this also shortly.
Editor’s Note: Listen to Talking Fussball for more analysis of this semifinal matchup, Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid, and the Bundesliga.