Following the 3-0 victory over Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in last Wednesday’s first leg, Barça are firm favourites to reach the Champions League Final in Berlin on June 6. However, 90 minutes remain in tomorrow’s second leg at the Allianz Arena (Tuesday 8.45 pm) and Bayern’s big wins over Shakhtar in the last 16 (7-0) and Porto in the quarter-finals (6-1) demonstrate the the Bavarians’ strength on their home turf. Luis Enrique has named all 23 first team players plus Samper, Munir and Sandro from Barça B for the game and the group travelled to Munich at lunchtime today. The Barça coach and Javier Mascherano will give a press conference this afternoon and at 7 pm the players will train at the Allianz.
Despite Bayern winning the Bundesliga again, Guardiola is receiving a lot of criticism after a run of four successive defeats. The losses to Leverkusen and Ausberg in the league were of no significance but the cup defeat on penalties to Dortmund and last week’s first leg at Camp Nou have raised doubts in Germany over Guardiola’s tactics. Defenders of the Catalan coach point to the number of injuries suffered by Bayern this season but this won’t help Guardiola tomorrow as he again has to make do without key-players Alaba, Badstuber, Robben and Ribery.
Luis Enrique, on the other hand, is flying high. Barça are the in-form side in Europe and a tremendous run in 2015 leaves the team with a very realistic chance of repeating the triplete won by Guardiola in his first season at Barça six years ago. Barça’s success in recent months has been based on the brilliant attacking trio of Messi, Suárez and Neymar but also on the excellent physical condition of the squad and a solidness in defence that is reflected in the run of seven straight clean sheets since Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal in Paris four weeks ago.
That defensive solidness makes it very difficult to give Bayern much chance of overturning the 3-0 score from the first game. However, if anyone can do it, then it is probably Bayern and neither team will have forgotten the last semi-final encounter at the Allianz two years ago when Bayern beat Tito Vilanova’s team 4-0. Guardiola may may a change or two to last week’s team, possibly bringing in Gotze to add more attacking strength while Luis Enrique seems likely to repeat the XI from the first leg.
Bayern: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Benatia, Bernat; Schweinsteiger, Alonso, Thiago; Muller, Lewandowski, Gotze.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
My prediction: Bayern 1 Barça 2
Date: Tuesday 12 May 2015. Kick-off 8.45 pm local time.