After successive encouraging victories taken in the league, Barcelona resumes its Champions League campaign, hosting Bayern München on home soil. The Catalans are pushing for a crucial win, which is their only chance to continue in the CL, while the visitors are looking to end the group stages with an immaculate record.
Barca News Network brings you 4 key points to discuss before the all-deciding battle against Bayern München on the 5th matchday of the Champions League.
1. A fearless opposition
Bayern is known as one of the greatest teams in the world, and also as one of the best ones for the past few years. Since they predominantly marched through the whole of Europe in 2020, when that ominous 8-2 happened, they have been widely recognized as one of the biggest favorites to win the Champions League heading into a new campaign.
And, those who think so, are not far from the truth. The Bavarian machine is a terrifying opposition to face, a complete team that combines physical presence, technical prowess, and tactical competence on the highest level.
However, Julian Nagelsmann’s appointment didn’t bear fruit immediately, and he seemingly struggled – and maybe he still does – handling the egos not accustomed to such a treatment in the unique atmosphere of Bayern’s locker room.
This could be traced back to the insufficient level of competitiveness of the Bundesliga, where, if you wear a Bayern shirt, your success is guaranteed, given the huge financial gap between Bayern and others, unless a team can somehow find a manager of Klopp’s caliber for example.
However, many of these stars left the team, which, aside from the undisputable quality loss, can be a relief for Nagelsmann, as now he can work without the burden of compliance and compromise, and thus, unleash his true powers on the current squad, which is still far from weak.
With the likes of Leroy Sané, who enjoys redemption under Nagelsmann’s tenure, the ex-Liverpool star Sadio Mané and the incredible Jamal Musiala, who has been one of the best youngsters in the world, the Bavarians have compelling, fluid offensive play, where versatile attacking profiles can seamlessly take up any role and create havoc in the opposition defense.
2. Learning from the past
Although this oppressive, imperious side of the Bavarians wasn’t significantly visible in our last meeting, the German record champions proved to play with the precise, composed instinct of a great team, exploiting our mistakes ruthlessly to claim the victory.
But, every failure is a lesson, the matter is how we see it. If Xavi learns from the mistakes of the past and makes the right choices in deploying his team, nothing is impossible, even if playing against such a monstrous team as Bayern.
What we could closely experience in the mere contrast between the right and wrong usage of the available profiles is just how important is to use every player in his best position, the role that suits him most in order to get the best out of them.
Against Inter and Real Madrid, we could see the negative examples of that, while redemption started when changes were made in the positive direction, demonstrated well in the magisterial triumphs against Villarreal and Bilbao.
From defense to the front, it will be essential to deploy the correct profiles, according to the actual game plan. Thankfully, we have multiple options to choose from – in most positions – to adjust their usage according to the nature of the opposition, something Xavi needs to learn, but seemingly, he is on the right way to do so.
3. Injuries haunting
While we have the sweet burden to choose from multiple available players in some positions, we also have some sensible absences, whose contribution was essential to our success. Namely, we are missing Ronald Araújo and Andreas Christensen from the center of the defense as well as Sergi Roberto from the right-back spot.
The Uruguayan wall has been injured during the international camp and had to undergo surgery to ensure the safety of his recovery. Even though he made the right choice in favor of his long-term career, his chances to go to the World Cup are getting minimized, and barring some unexpected turn, he won’t participate in any of Barcelona’s games this calendar year.
His Danish partner, Christensen, suffered an injury in the game against Inter Milan, and despite the positive signs about his return for the game, he still isn’t 100% fit and prepared to play, and thus, leaves the job to the not-too-convincing pair of Gerard Piqué and Eric García, aided with Jules Koundé, whose contribution, though, would be ideal on the right flank.
Because, as we all know, Sergi Roberto, who has been surprisingly great in the last couple of games, has a dislocated shoulder, which sidelines him for a longer period of time. Indeed, we have Héctor Bellerín as a right-back too, but given he has barely got any minutes since his return from a recent injury, it would be a risky choice to start him, but we will most likely see that scenario.
4. The last ray of hope
Following the disappointing two games against Inter, our fate of continuity in the Champions League has slipped out of our control, leaving our hopes for a miraculous performance from Viktoria Plzeň to hold Inter to at least a draw, or else we are out of the Champions League.
Still, even if Viktoria pulls off the miracle, we should beat both Bayern and Viktoria, while Inter should lose to the Bavarians. From this theory, the first two are the more questionable criteria, and the matchday of tomorrow will give us the answers.
So, all eyes are on the Camp Nou, tomorrow, our only aim is the victory, in any other scenario we are instantly out, but even if we manage to pull off the win, we are not safe unless Inter bottles against Viktoria. It’s sad we find ourselves in such a situation where even if we win, the decision is out of our control, but let’s pray and see what tomorrow brings. Visca El Barca.