Monday 11 May 2015 15:05, UK
The odds are stacked against Bayern Munich for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final showdown against Barcelona following their 3-0 first leg defeat at the Camp Nou, but here we pick out some reasons why you shouldn’t rule Pep Guardiola’s side out just yet.
Reasons why they can do it
This is not the first time Bayern have had to overturn a considerable deficit in this year’s competition. Their Champions League hopes appeared to be hanging by a thread after their shock 3-1 defeat to Porto in their quarter-final first leg, but they responded in stunning fashion at the Allianz Arena.
Thiago Alcantara broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, and there was a feeling of inevitability about what followed. A brace from Robert Lewandowski and strikes from Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller put Bayern 5-0 up at half-time, and it finished 6-1, giving the Bavarian side a 7-4 aggregate victory that looked nigh-on impossible after a chastening night at the Estadio do Dragao. Barcelona are, of course, a far stronger side than Porto, but the Catalan side would be wise to keep that result in mind.
The demolition of Porto was not the first time Bayern have put a Champions League opponent to the sword this season. Shakhtar Donetsk held Bayern to a 0-0 draw in Ukraine during the group stages, but they were hammered 7-0 in the return game at the Allianz Arena. Bayern have won all five of their Champions League home games so far, scoring a staggering 19 goals and conceding only once.
Bayern need to score three goals against Barca to have any chance of progressing to the final, but they can take encouragement from their average scoring rate of 3.8 goals per game in European home matches this season. Indeed, despite their 3-0 defeat at the Nou Camp, Bayern remain Champions League top scorers with 30 goals in 11 games in total.
Despite their miserable night at the Nou Camp, Guardiola’s inside knowledge means he remains the best man for stopping his former side. Barcelona’s first leg victory owed a lot to Lionel Messi, who Guardiola had described as “unstoppable” in the build up to the game, and it should be noted that Bayern kept the hosts out until the Argentine’s 77th-minute opener.
Their late collapse has given them a mountainous task at the Allianz Arena, but Guardiola believes scoring the first goal could give them a route back into the tie. “We have to be patient and cannot do everything in the first 15-20 minutes," the Spaniard said at his pre-match press conference. "First we have to play football and see what happens. Maybe we can then score a goal and create an atmosphere in the stadium.”
Bayern will need to be at their absolute best on Tuesday night, but history is on their side. In 22 home games against Spanish opposition, Bayern have won 15, drawn five and only lost twice. Bayern have also fared well against Barcelona in past encounters. They have won five of their previous nine meetings, and before last week’s defeat they had only been beaten once by the Catalan side.
Indeed, the last time Barcelona came to town in 2013, Bayern secured a famous 4-0 win. Bayern are shorn of injured wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben this time around, but the presence of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng means there will be a familiar feel to their starting line-up. Few predicted such an empathic win in 2013, but a repeat of that scoreline on Tuesday would put Guardiola’s men into the final.
Barcelona can be breached
Barcelona are on a remarkable run of seven consecutive clean sheets, but Bayern can take encouragement from Paris St Germain and Real Madrid earlier this season. Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti’s sides both managed to put three goals past Barcelona in the first half of the campaign, while the likes of Sevilla, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao have also managed to score twice against Luis Enrique’s men.
Barcelona boast a formidable defensive record this season overall, but, as mentioned earlier, Bayern are prolific goalscorers. In Thomas Muller they have Germany’s leading Champions League goalscorer with 27 strikes so far, while Robert Lewandowski, Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze can also test their resolve.
Reasons why they can’t…
As Guardiola knows all too well, Messi is simply unstoppable. The Argentine has scored six goals in his last four games and if he adds to his tally on Tuesday, Bayern will need to score five. And while Messi is Barcelona’s primary threat, there is also the small matter of Neymar and Luis Suarez. Bayern’s defensive performance will need to be perfect – and even that might not be enough.
Barcelona are in utterly devastating form having won 28 of their last 30 games. Enrique’s men have not been beaten since a 1-0 defeat to Malaga in February, and they have not been defeated by a three-goal margin all season. Since Bayern’s 3-0 win at the Nou Camp in May 2013, Barcelona have not tasted defeat by a three-goal margin once.
While Barcelona’s form has been sensational, Bayern are currently on their worst run since the 2006/07 campaign. Guardiola’s side have lost their last three games following their penalty shoot-out defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup. While Barcelona warmed up for Tuesday’s second leg with a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad, Bayern fell to a 1-0 loss at home to Augsburg.
Finally, only once in Champions League history has a side lost the first leg of a knock-out tie by three goals and progressed to the next round. That was back in the quarter-finals of the 2003/04 season, when Deportivo La Coruna beat AC Milan 5-4 on aggregate despite losing the first leg 4-1 at the San Siro. Bayern have shown their fighting spirit on a number of occasions this year, but they’re in for the fight of their lives on Tuesday night.