Barca had a very satisfying outing against Napoli a few nights back, thanks to the magical display by none other than our very own Lionel Messi. Their easy victory secured them a birth in the Quarter Final of the UEFA Champions League against the mighty Bayern Munich. And this time it is not going to be a walk in the park for the Quique Setien brigade. Perhaps an ardent fan of the beautiful game would have wondered why this match is happening so early. This had every potential to be the final of the biggest war of the clubs in the game of football on this planet.
With a new one-off rule, this Quarter Final match has already been dubbed as the biggest and the most anticipated match of the competition so far. There will not be any home advantage or away worries as the one-off tie is going to be held at a neutral venue Lisbon. So, both the teams will have to shift their respective strategies to an all-out one. And this alone makes the prospects of the battle so very interesting as both the teams are known for their penchants for going full monty against the defense of the opponent
Coming to the Barca side, their coach will be worried to see the present status of their defense unit. Napoli could not seize the chances in the early minutes of the game, but do not expect Bayern to commit those same mistakes. The likes of Lewandowski, Muller, or Ganbry will literally torment the Catalan defense if they find any lacunae. With Pique nearing the end of his illustrious career, Semedo not yet ready to shoulder the arduous task of guarding the Catalan fortress, much of the workload will be on the French defender Lenglet. Even though they can boast of having the magician Messi in the frontline, like him, his counterpart Suarez, too is aging. They don’t have the likes of Iniesta or Xavi to create buttery chances for them from the midfield. With Busquets aging like the rest of his illustrious teammates, the onus to create chances from the middle of the field will rest on the likes of Vidal , Rakitic, or the Dutch De Jong. If the coach continues to have Griezmann alongside Messi and Suarez, he may have to go without Vidal as he cannot miss the services of the maverick Busquets. Having said all these, all such equations may change if one superhuman can recreate the magic moments he had gifted us against Napoli or in innumerable matches. He alone can change the complexion of any game against any opponent on his day and the Barca fans will be pining for such a day again in the Portugal capital tonight.
On the other hand, Bayern depends so much on the pace of their young full-backs or the wingers and the finishing by the Polish wizard at the front-line. In comparison to their Barcelona counterparts, the players in the German side are ahead in one aspect- mighty pace oozing out from the vitality of youth. A counterattack led by Kimmich, carried forward by Goretzka, Thiago, or Gnabry and finally clinical netting by Lewandowski or Muller- how many times have the Bayern supporters witnessed this in the recent past? Perhaps they have stopped counting. And this might be the area of concern for Barca brigade. Having beaten Chelsea so comfortably, the German side must be on the cloud nine of confidence and without an iota of doubt, they are coming as the favourite in this most anticipated game of the tournament thus far.
But who knows? As long as LM 10 is there, anything can happen anytime and as a Barca supporter, I will be praying for that anything throughout the match. Even though my brain is going for Bayern, my heart always will bleed for Barca. For a football lover, nothing can be a better gift than this.