UCL Quarter Final, Friday
At Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, 7 PM BTS
Score Prediction: 3-1 to Bayern Munich
A knock out match between the biggest team in Germany and its counterpart in Spain, with two greats of the modern game facing each other for a knock out match in a neutral venue. Does it get any better than this? For any football fan starved of action for almost three months by a global pandemic this is what salvation must seem like. Both teams have pledged to give their best, Bayern to add to their fantastic season and Barcelona to salvage some pride at the end of theirs. But there might be more going on the emotional side, this might be Barca’s last bid to keep Messi within the club and Bayern would be wanting to get their hands on the trophy for Lewy, who has been robbed of the Ballon, for Muller to provide an adequate answer to Lowe and as a recognition to Hansi. To add to that, winning the UCL might even convince Thiago to stay back, after all not many players have the heart to leave a club just after they have won the Champion’s League.
Can the Bavarians get past, or will the pressure of being the favorites get to them?
Bayern has had an excellent season and the team seems to be working well and gelling together, to the extent that almost every “football guru” has picked them as favorites to win the tournament along with Man City. Could that combined with recent Barca performances make them complacent and enable Barca to whizz past them?
That is a possibility, the probability of which is quite remote, simply because they play the Bundesliga each year with the title of ‘favourites’ and never have they ever seemed complacent. And under Hansi Flick, the work rate of each Bayern player has only improved. Remember the days of Kovach, where the players on the field seemed lazy and clueless, unable to stop the opposition from running through their lines? Well, those days are over! Barcelona will find it difficult to create passing lanes, despite Messi’s individual brilliance because Bayern is going to “gegen press”. Bayern will obviously play a high line, as they have done typically under Flick and will dominate possession in the game. I can also see Bayern winning the mid-field battle against the likes of Busquets, Vidal or Riktic. Do not get me wrong, these are good players but not a match for the physicality of Bayern’s mid-field pivot of Thiago and Goretzka. How do you even begin to describe the beauty that Thiago is, he is the team’s play maker along with Muller winning balls in the middle and opening passing lanes for the rest. Goretzka is seriously understated, he is absolutely essential for the team in the middle. He is almost everywhere in the pitch at once, courtesy his intelligence and energy levels. He’ll pop up in the box without the opposition full backs noticing and last match against Chelsea, he was even covering RB when Kimmich, tucked into the mid field to control the middle.
The CBs and the Full Backs will have the extremely tough job of containing the likes of Messi, Suarez and Griezmann or Fati. Daunting as it might seem, Bayern will be working hard to keep them out, albeit, with Messi there a few break ins are expected. Alaba has been a revelation this season this season at CB and Davies is Bayern’s trump card, essential in moving the ball up the pitch along the left flank. Further up the pitch the team will have the pace of Coman and Gnabry accompanying the guile of Muller and Lewy. Even though this sounds exciting on paper there is room for improvement in the region. Coman is probably the best dribbler in this team and will get the ball into the box showcasing great skill, however, his finish is poor and that costs the team goal opportunities. Muller has a problem along similar lines, he creates chances for Lewy but himself fails to capitalize on opportunities presented to him. Like in the match against Chelsea, he should have had two goals to his name. It did not reall hurt aginst against Chelsea but against better teams like Barcelona and City that might just be the difference between a win and a loss.
Can Barcelona turn it around?
Barcelona has an excellent batch of players, the likes of Messi, Pique, Suarez, Busquets, Alba, Vidal, Ricktic would have easily made their way into any playing XI in their prime and could turn the match around. However, most of these players are past their prime and seem like fallen angels running all over the pitch trying to redeem themselves in the recent matches. The Bayern team is the fastest that they have had in a while and these aged players might just find it difficult to keep up with the likes of Davis, Coman or Gnabry.
While the older players need to find inspiration, the newer players need to find themselves in the system. Griezemann has been putting in the hard yards for the team running up and down the pitch to make them defensively stronger, but he is not a winger! He needs to play in a central position, preferably as a CAM, the place from where he created all that magic in his ATM days. In Barca, that place is reserved for Messi, so most of the times Griezemann can not even get in the box to play the ball in or even if he does, he seems extremely confused as to whether go for goal or pass the ball to Suarez or Messi. Suarez for his part has not seemed his fittest best!
However, the Barca players should be looking to break through Bayern’s high line and the fact that it is quite possible was demonstrated amply well by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Abraham in the match against Chelsea, where they seemed to target Boateng. Boateng was unwilling to commit to pressing the young Chelsea strikers for fear of being outrun and who can forget what he had been reduced to, by Messi in the 2014-15 campaign. While none of the Barcelona attackers are as pacy enough, the Messi factor can not be discounted. The scenario might change a little if Bayern fields Sule in his place, but he has just made it back to the team from really long injury and Hansi might not trust him to play the full 90 mins.
Bayern Munich: 4-2-3-1
Coman is supposed to make a return and take his place in place of Perisc. Boateng could be replaced by Sule, but that is a remote possibility.
Davis Alaba Boateng Kimmich
Gnabry Muller Coman
Both Vidal and Busquets are expected to make a comeback into the team having served their suspensions. Fati or Puig might replace Griezemann.
Messi Suarez Griezmann
Busquets Vidal Roberto
Semedo Pique Lenglet Alba
Cover The Spread Betting Trends:
Head-to-Head Matches Barcelona vs Bayern
|24.07.13||Bayern – Barcelona||2 : 0|
|01.05.13||Barcelona – Bayern||0 : 3|
|23.04.13||Bayern – Barcelona||4 : 0|
|27.07.11||Barcelona – Bayern||2 : 0|
|14.04.09||Bayern – Barcelona||1 : 1|
|08.04.09||Barcelona – Bayern||4 : 0|
Free UCL Picks Barcelona vs Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich are a better team currently, but Barcelona is a quality side filled with players who were once probably one of the bests at what they do. If they can find it among themselves to reinvigorate themselves and if the maestro plays one of his blinders, then they definitely have the ability to overturn this Bayern side. But skill wise and going on the basis of current form, especially, with a striker like Lewandowski at their helm, this is Bayern’s match to lose.