Barcelona and Bayern Munich meet again today in the second leg of the Champion’s League semi-finals and anyone beyond a die-hard Bayern Munich fan already has Barcelona penciled into the finals in Berlin. With the recent form of the club and their 3-0 advantage after the first leg, Barcelona are the odds on favorites to advance and at this point, you have to fancy their chances to lift the trophy on June 6th.
However, unlike PSG, Bayern are not going to lay down to Barcelona. The club’s mentality, their recent history, and Pep’s influence will ensure the squad starts the game with the belief that they can still advance.
Will that belief remain after the whistle blows is another question. Bayern will need to attack relentlessly without leaving their defenders exposed in space and outnumbered by counterattacks led by Messi, Neymar, and Suarez.
Pep’s club will have to dominate possession and win every 50/50 ball and press so effectively that Barcelona cannot gain or control any positive possession. Not the easiest task to say the least.
The best scenario for the German club and the one that offers them the best chance to overturn the three goal deficit would be a goal in the first 20 minutes after constant pressure and near misses on Barcelona’s net.
The early goal and positive performance would allow the home crowd to believe the impossible is true and get behind the club. Bayern would also need that first goal and the crowd’s response to create some doubt in the Barcelona squad prompting the players to make mistakes and/or become less offensive thinking.
The dream scenario for Bayern is that the early goal would create panic in Enrique making him decide to try to lock the game down and escape with a loss but an overall victory. This would give Bayern the possession they need to attack and lessen the fear of Barcelona’s counter.
In theory the above paragraph seems probably, after all it would follow the same script as Bayern’s last European home match.
The problem lies in Barcelona are not Porto. Even if Barcelona comes out defensive (unlikely) and even if they give up an early goal (possible) and even if the crowd gets into the game imitating the referee and Enrique into making mistakes (not likely but not insane), Barcelona still has the best front line in the world and the greatest player in the world.
As the last game showed, no game plan or situation can contain the Argentinian. All it may take for the Spanish club to advance then is one more magical moment from Messi.
Bayern could be leading 3 or 4 to nil and dominating the game and yet, the threat of Messi doing Messi things and winning the tie would hang over the game till the moment it stopped.
He is that good and Bayern’s only way forward will have to rest on Messi disappearing today—something his joy after scoring last week makes unlikely.
So here Bayern are; without their best offensive and creative players and facing an almost no win situation where even if everything breaks their way, they still may end up short. On the other hand, Barcelona have been outstanding throughout the last month and are in a spot where they can afford to not play their best and still move on (based on their goal advantage and the aforementioned front line).
Really anything can happen today with the most likely scenario being a somewhat easy run for Barcelona. The Spanish club would hold off Bayern for the first 20 minutes or so before possession equalizes and the game moves along with a pre-determined outcome.
However, if Bayern can get one back early, a whole range of possibilities open: Bayern could mount a comeback and Barcelona could crumble, Bayern could do enough just to make it interesting before bowing out, or it could turn into a goal fest with non-stop action and unpredictability.
The first scenario is the most boring yet the one history would predict. Personally, as someone who would love to see Barcelona win their 5th European title and possibly another treble, I should go for that first scenario.
But as someone who loves the sport and wants to watch two legendary clubs and possibly two legendary coaches battle each other (if Barcelona wins three trophies this season, Enrique becomes a legend, no?) a part of me wants to see Bayern score early just to see a great game and see what strategies and tactics are put into place. What would happen after that first goal? How would everyone react? How would the coaches and players respond?
Will Enrique go defensive and grind it out or go for the kill? What would Pep do? Could Enrique prove he is a better game manager then Pep?
Chances are it is Barcelona quite easily today but its sports and it should be entertaining, intriguing, and surprising. Let’s see Bayern get a goal and let’s have some fun today.