Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League campaign may come to an early end on Wednesday if the Catalans don’t find a way to outscore Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich. Xavi’s side are second in Group E behind the German giants, but with just seven points from five fixtures, their qualification for the knockout round hangs in the balance. Julian Nagelsmann’s team are enjoying a fabulous season so far, and with their qualification at the top of the table already secure, they might rest some of their key players for the fixture.
Here’s our preview of Wednesday’s much-anticipated Champions League fixture between Barcelona and Bayern Munich:
Barcelona’s Champions League campaign is still alive thanks to a couple of 1-0 victories over minnows Dynamo Kyiv. A goalless stalemate against Benfica last month meant that La Blaugrana will head into Wednesday’s fixture with their fate hanging in the balance. The Catalan club are just two points ahead of Benfica and would need a victory to confirm their berth. If Barca fail to outscore Bayern on Wednesday and Benfica win over minnows Dynamo Kyiv, they would be looking at an early elimination as they boast a poor goal-scoring record in the tournament.
Xavi’s arrival at Camp Nou was celebrated by fans as he led Barcelona to successive victories. But a 1-0 defeat to Real Betis last weekend has brought that end to a run, and the Catalan giants will be heading to Munich short of confidence. Xavi is likely to continue with the 4-3-3 formation, with Frenkie de Jong, Luuk de Jong and Coutinho leading the attack. Barca will miss the services of Sergio Aguero, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, all of whom are out of the fixture due to injuries. Pedri and Sergi Roberto are set to miss fixtures throughout December, while Gavi has been admitted to a hospital with a head injury and his availability is in doubt.
The group stages of Champions League have been a walk in the park for the Bavarian giants, with the team comfortably winning all five of their fixtures. Along with Liverpool and Ajax, Bayern are one of the few sides that boast a perfect record in the group stages so far. Bayern’s success has come due to their attacking prowess – they have scored a whopping 19 goals in five matches at an average of 3.8 goals per match. That included a 3-0 thrashing of Barcelona in their first match of the Champions League. The trio of Robert Lewandowski, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller has been phenomenal across all competitions – Bayern also sit at the top of Bundesliga with a goal difference of +30.
Dayot Upamecano will return to the side after serving his European ban, while Lucas Hernandez has picked up an injury against Borussia Dortmund. Joshua Kimmich, Michael Cuisance and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are all at the risk of missing out due to Coronavirus. With qualification secure, Julian Nagelsmann might rotate the players and reduce their game time to avoid fatigue. Even a trimmed-down squad might prove too difficult to handle for Barcelona, and with nothing to lose, Bayern will be taking the field at home with confidence.
Bayern have scored at least two goals in each of their last 11 home games, and despite the absence of fans, they are likely to enjoy the familiarity of the Allianz Arena.
HEAD TO HEAD
Bayern Munich have won nine of the 14 encounters between the sides across all competitions. Of the ten encounters between the sides in Europe’s most prestigious competitions, it is the Bavarians who have come out on top seven times. Bayern Munich have won each of the last three fixtures against La Blaugrana in the Champions League, including the infamous 8-2 thrashing in Lisbon. Incidentally, the victors of the Barcelona-Bayern tie went on to win the Champions League title every year the giants met, including 2020.
The meeting between both sides earlier this season ended with a 3-0 victory for Bayern. Thomas Muller scored in the first half to give the Bavarians a lead, which Robert Lewandowski extended with two goals in the second half. While Ronald Koeman has since exited Camp Nou, the side remains much the same.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It has been more than two decades since the Spanish giants have exited the Champions League without advancing to the knockout rounds. While Xavi has brought fleeting optimism to the side, there are still structural deficiencies and the lack of confidence that haunt the team. Barcelona will truly need a miracle on Wednesday to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Bayern Munich are still the tournament favourites, and would like to avoid a defeat at all costs to maintain their perfect record.
The fixture is likely to be hotly contested, but we expect Bayern Munich to come out on top with a victory.
Barcelona Predicted XI: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Oscar Mingueza, Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba,Sergio Busquets, Riqui Puig, Frenkie de Jong, Luuk de Jong, Philippe Coutinho.
Bayern Munich Predicted XI: Manuel Neuer, Niklas Sule, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernandez, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, Robert Lewandowski
When: Thursday, 9th December, 1:30 AM IST
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich.
Where to Watch: Select matches of the UEFA Champions League will be broadcast on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 2 and Sony Six HD and SD channels. All fixtures will also be streamed live on SonyLIV.
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