Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Barcelona's only hope is to repeat Bayern Munich battering of 2009

Lionel Messi celebrates one of his two goals against Bayern Munich back in 2009
Lionel Messi celebrates one of his two goals against Bayern Munich back in 2009

Barcelona will call on their extraordinary capacity for high-scoring victories in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich – while doing their best to forget the defensive frailties that allowed the Germans a 4-0 victory in the first leg.

In the 301 games played since Pep Guardiola took charge in 2008, with current coach, Tito Vilanova, alongside him in the dugout, Barcelona have won 84 matches by four goals or more.

"They are still the best in the world and if anyone is capable of the turnaround then it is them," said Bayern's coach, Jupp Heynckes. But he warned that the German champions were not coming to Spain sit back and defend. "We want to attack," he said. "We are not a team that likes to defend. We do it well but we have a philosophy that we need to be true to. We are capable of scoring at the Nou Camp."

Fourteen of those 84 thrashings which have been handed out in the last five years have come in the Champions League, and one of them was against Bayern in April 2009. "The only team that can come back from 4-0 down against Bayern is this Barça team," said defender Gerard Pique.

Barcelona's cause will not be helped by the absence from midfield of Sergio Busquets, who has a groin injury. Also, the depressing truth for Barça is that in the home legs of their last five Champions League semi-finals they have only scored four times in total, and there has also been a big change in personnel from the XI that so convincingly beat Bayern four years ago.

In attack were Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry, who scored a goal each, and Lionel Messi, who netted twice; Yaya Touré played in midfield alongside Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta; and Carles Puyol and Rafael Marquez were alongside Pique and Dani Alves in defence. It is a roll call of big-game players who have since left the club or, in Puyol's case, are injured.

Bayern's team will have just two survivors from that defeat, Franck Ribéry and Bastian Schweinsteiger. "We are not the team we were back in 2009," said Schweinsteiger. "We have a different coach and different players. We are much stronger than we were then. We know their pride is hurt and we know that makes them more dangerous but we have opened the door to the final, we just have to step through."

The Nou Camp mosaic will spell out "Barça Pride" and any Bayern away goal would leave them playing for exactly that. Aware of the enormity of the task ahead, Pique said: "In the really big games this season when the team has needed a clean sheet the defence has not conceded.

"In the dressing room we have complete faith that we can do it. We have to hurt them psychologically by making and taking our early chances. We need to be as attacking as possible, with the full-backs playing high up the pitch and as much of the play as possible passing through Leo Messi."

Barcelona's No 10 has scored as many as five goals in one Champions League game – last year against Bayer Leverkusen – so once again the responsibility will fall on his shoulders.

Heynckes added: "Messi is a wonderful player – the best in the world, not just for his on-the-pitch attitude but for the way he is off the field too. But we have a world-class goalkeeper and world-class defenders to deal with the threat."

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