Barcelona v Bayern Munich Friday Champions League Quarter Finals Analysis.
The only former champions who remain meet, but they could hardly do so in more contrasting situations. Bayern are favourites for the Champions League and with good reason. Their 4-1 dismissal of Chelsea on Saturday was their 26th win in their past 27 games. Under Hansi Flick they have rediscovered the swagger that had gone missing under Niko Kovac.
They press better than anybody in Europe, they have tremendous pace in attacking areas and in Robert Lewandowski they have the best centre-forward in the world. Two goals and two assists in the second-leg win against Chelsea took his tally to 13 goals and four assists in the Champions League this season. With their rejuvenation well under way and other giants stuttering or stagnating, and Liverpool gone, the only negative for Bayern is being on, by far, the tougher side of the draw.
Barcelona are one of those stagnating giants. Even in beating Napoli 3-1 on Saturday they seemed oddly tentative, insecure at the back and heavily reliant on Lionel Messi going forwards. Their midfield has been vulnerable to direct runners for years, in part because of how stretched they become as a side with the lack of pressing from the forward line. Antoine Griezmann was signed presumably partly to improve that, but he hasn’t settled on the left and is yet to gel with Luis Suárez and Messi.
Barça and Bayern haven’t met since the semi-final in 2015 when Pep Guardiola’s Bayern took a surprisingly aggressive approach at the Camp Nou and ended up being beaten 3-0, eventually losing the tie 5-3 on aggregate. On form, though, this seems likely to be more similar to the previous meeting two years earlier, also in the semi-final, when Bayern demolished Barça 7-0 over the two legs.
Prediction Very comfortable Bayern win.