Will Guardiola have a happy homecoming?
Pep Guardiola had a night he would never want to remember the last time he faced a Spanish team in the semi finals of the Champions League. Real Madrid thrashed Bayern Munich 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in the second leg and also won the first leg 1-0 in the Spanish capital. While Guardiola does not have to worry the ferocious counter attacks of Real Madrid, he and his players face a mighty task of stopping the trio of Messi, Neymar and Suárez. The trio alone have scored more than hundred goals between them, are in top form and beat their last opponents 8-0. That, is a very big scoreline, even though their opponents were the 20th team in the table.
Not only does Guardiola have to face the task of stopping ‘MSN’, he might have to do without his own trio of Lewandowski, Robben and Ribéry. Bayern have been hit by a number of injuries to key personnel which makes beating Barcelona over two legs even more difficult. While Ribéry has been out since that 7-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk back in March, Arjen Robben will most certainly miss the important clash after getting injured in his comeback against Borussia Dortmund. Robben was expected to make it for the clash which he did when Guardiola decided to bring him on midway in the German Cup semi final against their arch rivals. Robben lasted 10 mins and was taken off. Bayern may miss star striker Robert Lewandowski who got injured in an aerial duel with Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak. There are reports though that he might feature wearing a protective mask.
Guardiola might have to vary the squad a bit too much to his liking as they will be without Sebastian Rode. The 24 year old midfielder was expected to make it for the midweek match after missing the 2-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen due to a muscular injury but has been ruled out and will not travel with the squad to Catalonia. Bayern will be missing a lot of goals if they are to play without Ribéry, Robben and Lewandowski.
Talking of goals, Barcelona can’t stop scoring those and will test Bayern’s defence time and time again. Lionel Messi who is back to his very best, is busy creating and scoring goals for fun while Suárez and Neymar are doing their best to punish every mistake committed by the opposition. Not just mistakes, the trio have a lot of magic up in their locker to create and score out of nothing.
This might be a bigger test for Guardiola than it was an year ago. While a complete Bayern Munich squad was thrashed last year at this stage of the competition, they travel to Spain this time with a depleted squad with a danger of getting thrashed yet again. Bayern will depend on the experience of Xabi Alonso, Phillip Lahm, Manuel Neuer and would hope they have a fully fit Lewandowski to chose for this important clash. Barcelona though don’t have to worry much. They would go in this as the favourites hoping to do what they’ve been doing for fun for the past few weeks, scoring and winning.