From optimism to pessimism, the mood is very uneven among the Barça fans. Ahead of Friday night’s all-important Champions League quarter-final duel, out editors try predicting the score and standout figures from the Barcelona vs Bayern Munich in Lisbon.
After having beaten Napoli by 4–2 on aggregate in the Champions League last 16, Barcelona prepare for what arguably is their toughest and most important challenge of the season. Only three wins separate Barça from the European crown, but Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will be a first great obstacle to overcome. After a week full of comments, hype and fuel added to the fire, tonight it will be do or die for Barcelona and Bayern. Ahead of such critical quarter-final encounter, thus, our editors try predicting the outcome of the game and share their player to watch from the upcoming clash between the two continental giants.
Barcelona 2–1 Bayern
Do or die
It’s time. After beating Napoli in the first half of their first Champions League game since February, Barcelona face one of the hardest opponents they could meet at this point of the competition. Bayern are one of the top two sides in the world, and they have the players to back up these credentials. The Bayern players and representatives have opened their mouths too much these past few days, and Barcelona play more than a place in the semis, they play for pride.
“We have a good ‘Messi stopper’. If Messi plays on his side, Alphonso will take care of him. He hasn’t really been outpaced or dribbled past this season”
Barça haven’t been scintillating, but they can do the job really nicely if they have the will to do it. Lionel Messi is the X-factor of this game, and with the Argentinean in the mood, this could be a long night for the Bavarian defence. Clément Lenglet will have to carry his backline as he did last week against Napoli, and the most significant interrogation is Ousmane Dembélé’s return. Will he start? Surely not. Can he have an impact off the bench? Surely. Quique Setién should use the Frenchman wisely, and no burn him out from the first game. It could go either way, but Barça is Barça, and this club never dies.
Player to watch: Ousmane Dembélé
As mentioned, Ousmane Dembélé won’t be able to feature from the start. He does, however, offer a luxurious option on Barça’s weak bench. If Setién wants to play with more width in the second half, Dembélé will be his man, and he could do some damage to a Bayern defence that doesn’t rely on pace without Alphonso Davies. His return will be scrutinised, but the pressure should fit him, and he will be crucial for the most critical game of the year.
Dembélé’s performance will depend on his fitness, and that’s why you should keep an eye on him, from the minute he comes on to his last touch. If Barcelona do advance with a big Dembélé performance, the Frenchman would be on the right track to gain his fans again. Let’s hope he has a performance to remember!
Barcelona 2–3 Bayern
Battle of the profligate sons
One needn’t hype this clash any further. A game worthy of being witnessed by the gods, one that sparks mixed memories on both sides, and one that truly shows what the UEFA Champions League stands for. In the red corner, we have the German Champions, a team that looks virtually unstoppable. A cohesive side with a man who just cannot stop scoring. And in the blue corner, we have Barcelona. A side that has been impressive in flashes, albeit not cohesive. At the same time, they have a man who can stop the unstoppable.
The clash promises to be much more than just two quality sides facing off. The battle on every level will be of the highest calibre. From the battle of keepers to the midfield combat, there is so much to look forward to!
Player to watch: Marc-André ter Stegen
Manuel Neuer vs Marc-André ter Stegen. A worthy but biased battle that has plagued the German national team for years now. It is no secret that the Barcelona man has not got even close to the respect he deserves while representing his country. And tonight is the night for him to show it to the world once again.
“The national team is lucky to have two goalkeepers like this available. Both are, without any doubt, top. Manuel [Neuer] is world-class whilst Ter Stegen is on the road to becoming world-class”
One rarely gets to face off directly with their nemesis, yet Ter Stegen gets that chance today. He has been one of the most important players in this Catalan side, year after year. However, tonight it is not only a question of defending the badge. It is a matter of his pride and reputation.
Barcelona 3–2 Bayern
Hope dies last
It is not common to see Barça not being favourites in a game. The blaugranas, always aiming at being the best team in the world, tend to set their standards very high. This season, though, the story has been different, and Barcelona has not been able to live up to such expectations. With the risk of ending the season trophyless, and with Quique Setién having replaced Ernesto Valverde in midseason without radical effect, the self-belief has possibly and understandably decreased among culés.
Tonight Barça will face a side that did take full advantage of their change of manager through the first half of the 19/20 campaign, since Hansi Flick has transformed Niko Kovač’s uninspiring squad into a winning one. As a consequence, unusually in a Barcelona match, it is the Catalans’ rivals who are painted as the clear favourites for Friday’s quarter-finals battle.
Barcelona are prepared to silence Bayern once more | Photo by Shaun Botterill via Getty Images
But favouritism means close to nothing in football, and the Champions League has become used in recent years to hosting unexpected surprises –– this season, and with the new do-or-die format, this has been no different. Underdogs love shocking the world, and while Barça may not necessarily be underdogs, the pressure to win will be on Bayern. With a prepared and hungry squad, and the man below, why can’t Barcelona do it in Lisbon?
Player to watch: Lionel Messi
The easy pick, but the safe one. As proven in recent courses, Lionel Messi alone will not be sufficient to guarantee titles, but he can certainly elevate Barcelona’s quality and chances. Him having a good day could be the key to the tie as, if both Barça and Bayern have perfect performances, the unparalleled genius of Messi may give the former the edge.
Messi, as always, will be expected to take on big responsibilities in playmaking, creating chances, finishing them and scoring. But as long as his teammates offer him support and space, the Argentinian could decide the match if he is drawn one-on-one or even one-versus-two against the likes of Alphonso Davies and David Alaba. The culés‘ hopes rest on his shoulders.