Barcelona Vs Bayern-Munich: Can Messi Shoulder Barca's Responsibilities?


Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandoski
Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandoski

By Oloye Olawale

 In 2013, under Jupp Henyckes, Bayern-Munich swatted aside Guardiola's Fc-Barcelona by 7 unreplied goals, at the semi-final stage of the UEFA Champions League, before lifting the trophy. 

Two years later, it was payback time, as Luiz Enrique's Barca knocked out the Bavarians, at the same stage. 

The star-studded Bavarians under the tutelage of a rejuvenated Guardiola,  in 2015 showcased their tactical discipline for much of the first leg at Camp Nou but were let down by an off-kilter performance of their strikers.  And it took 13 minutes of Messi's magic to inspire a 3goal victory for the Catalans. 

Injuries to some key and players like Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, who didn't feature against Barca, also affected the fate of the Munich based team. And Barca's potent attacking triumvirate, code named MSN, Messi, Suarez, and Neymar capitalized on that to knock out the Bavarians. 

Five years down the line, the two teams will meet in a one-legged quarter-final match in Lisbon. 

A lot has changed about the two teams. While Robert Lewandoski still tops strikes for Bayern, the likes of, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Robben, Dante, Robbery, and other world-class players have parted way with the team. 

The team now boasts of some youthful players like Serge Gnabry, Thiago, Alphonso Alves, Pavard, including experienced foxes like Boateng, Martinez, Alaba, and Manuel Nuer. 

Barcelona on the other hand can no longer boast of their midfield impresarios Xavi and Iniesta. Neymar is gone, while the sheer athleticism of Alves and Mascherano continues to be sorely missed at "Camp'nou". 

Led by Messi, and over-the-hill  striker, Luiz Suarez, many of Barca's first-team players are at the twilight of their careers in early or mid-thirties. 

The camaraderie between the South American trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar, was fantastic. This culminated in their enviable output on the pitch, before Neymar's departure changed the rhythm.  

The arrival of injury-prone Usman Dembele and Antonie Griezman has not changed the team's fortune in the attack. 

Although, Frankie De'Jong is impressive in the midfield, getting stable midfield partners for him remains a challenge. No thanks to the poor form of Juventus bound Arthur, on-loan Coutinho, and a drop in aging Sergio Busquet's performance. 

At the back, Goal-Keeper Ters'Tegen is doing well, but Barca's defense of Pique, Lenglet, Alba, and Semedo, appears brittle whenever they face top teams.

 This was evident in both Naples and Camp'nou. And one still wonders if this wall could keep Lewandoski and Co at bay for 90 minutes in Lisbon.

Possible Line-up. (Bayern-Munich )

Robert Lewandoski will lead the line for the Bavarians in the attack. The Polish hitman has 53 goals in 44 games in this season, and he's arguably the best striker in the world at the moment. 

Ever reliable Thomas Muller will offer support behind Lewandoski,  to interchange from attack to a five-man midfield occasionally, as the game demands. 

Thiago and Goretzka's partnership would form the strong base of a four-man midfield, as the center of the park needs special attention against Barca. 

Energetic Serge Gnerbry offers width and pace on the right side of the midfield, to stretch Barca's defense, especially when Jordi Alba is caught off guard.

 Similarly, Coleman's recovery from injury gives addition to the number of agile players in Hansi Flick's midfield.

Defense line is one of the strongest departments of this  German team. David Alaba's partnership with Boateng has proven effective in the heart of the defense. 

Joshua Kimmich starts from the right full-back position, while fleet-footed Liberian-Canadian, Alphonso Davies brings pace to the left full-back position in attack and efficiency in defense. 

Manuel Nuer is a sure bet in goal to cover up for the Bavarians.

Where The Match Would Be Won for Bayern Munich 

Since the clash is a single-legged tie, Coach Flick must rally his troops to begin the game in their usual high-tempo and quick transition, which Barcelona will struggle to deal with. 

A close tab must be kept on Messi to cut supplies of passes to him, while also preventing him from playing in the likes of Suarez and Co with his defense splitting passes. 

Maintaining a high-line against a Messi's Barca could be dangerous, as he could unleash his talent on any defense at will, and decide the game, as seen against Napoli. 

Lewandoski needs to convert every chance that comes his way today, as another sub-par performance from him could signal the exit of his team in 2020 UCL. 

Possible Line-up 

Ters Stegen will be in goal for the Catalans. And this will be another night to battle his fellow German Nuer on the other side. 

 In defense, Nelson Semedo on the right to offer the required energy when joining the attack occasionally, and also solidify the defense. 

Pique and Lenglet in central defense face tougher scrutiny from a sterner opposition tonight, as they battle to tame the free-scoring Bavarians' attack.

Jordi Alba retains his place in the left full-back, to run down the flank when in the attack. But, the aplomb with which tonight's opponents dispatched Chelsea should be worrisome to Barca's technical crew, when considering Alba's defensive abilities. 

  De Jong is a sure starter, who could be partnered with Rakitic in the midfield. And it remains a question for Quique Setien either to opt for the power of Arturo Vidal, or skills of ballsy, but aging Busquet on a night that'll define his tactical competence. 

Suarez leads the line for the Blaugrana, alongside Messi. And Antonie Griezman's poor form makes him a doubtful starter for the clash,  as his pacy French teammate,  Ousmane Dembele receives medical green light to play the match, after a long time of injury.

Where The Match Would Be Won for Barcelona 

For the first time in many years, Barcelona goes into a UCL match as underdogs. Except, in goal-keeping and presence of Messi and Suarez in the attack, Bayern Munich poses a greater threat in each of the departments on the field to the aging squad of  Barcelona. 

However, the Bavarians must be reminded that Pep Guardiola faced Messi's Barca with a more tactical, disciplined, and hardworking Bayern in 2015, but bowed down to 3 goals through Messi's Magic. 

The Argentine had bailed out Barca on many occasions in the past. And if Pique and Co could upend Lewandoski's attack, Messi could be buoyed to perform another magic. 

Whatever Messi chooses to do tonight, a team must pave way for another to be in the semifinal of the 2020UCL.  

See you in Lisbon.

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