Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bavarian Nights, European Glory: Munich – Barça

They’re the best team in the world.
They can stop anyone in their
tracks with a possession-based
game, high-pressing on defense,
and a cutting edge on the offensive
end. It doesn’t just look pretty, it
is also so effective that they’re the
highest scoring team in the
league. Which team am I talking
about, Barcelona or Bayern
Munich? It probably depends on
who you ask, but the majority will
probably say the Bavarians, simply
because they’re obliterating their
domestic competition and looking
great while doing it.
What Barcelona fans will want to
hear is that they’ve still got Xavi,
Iniesta, and Messi. They’ve got
Pique, Alba, Alves, and Busi.
They’ve got Cesc and Alexis.
They’ve got Victor Valdes. And
they’ve got a certain someone
named Eric Abidal. Another guy
named Tito Vilanova strides in
front of the bench. That’s not a
team to be trifled with. Sure,
they’re banged up, but that name
in the middle of the list–Messi–is
a name for opponents to fear no
matter how hurt his hamstring is.
Whatever the issues in the PSG
game, whatever happened in the
1-0 against Levante, the team will
have to play more like the first leg
against PSG than the second in
order to have a chance. The issues
have to be put behind them, weak
back line and all. Possession
doesn’t have to be vertical nor
sterile. It can be the possession
we’ve come to know and love:
circulating, jabbing, circulating
more, jabbing again. Eventually a
hole will be created while the
opposition is worn down by the
constant defense. The question has
become one of too much
verticality, too many quick
transitions given up to a team
unable to press as its harriers are
caught above their defenders,
sterile in possession because they
rely on instant genius.
The thing is, if Bayern Munich
thinks they have that lighting in a
bottle well and truly corked — and
make no mistake, Jupp Heynckes
talks a big game about this —
they’re insane. It’s not just Messi
who is capable of magic, though
he is the principle wizard; Andres
Iniesta is a mago in his own right.
Whatever your opinion of him,
Alexis is capable of the darting run
off the ball to unlock a defense.
Xavi will always be metronomic,
always steady, always looking for
that killer pass or, if needed, that
finishing touch.
The teeter to this totter, though, is
that Bayern has lots of lightning
stored up as well. They’re capable
of dramatic routs, like their
complete dismantling of Hannover
6-1 on Saturday, while they’re
capable of methodical destruction,
like in their Champions League
quarterfinal against Juventus.
They could easily win a domestic
double (they’ve already got the
league title wrapped up) and
there’s no doubt they’re fully
capable of winning the third Triple
in history.
Barcelona : Valdés, Pinto, Dani
Alves, Piqué, Fàbregas, Xavi, Villa,
Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Thiago, Dos
Santos, Bartra, Sergio, Pedro, Jordi
Alba, Montoya, Abidal, Song, Tello,
Oier.
Adriano is missing through
suspension while Masche and Puyi
are out through injury. For Munich,
Bastian Schweinsteiger is coming
off an injury while Mario
Mandzukic is still not 100%. Will
Javi Martinez get a chance to
show Barcelona why it should
have purchased him instead of
trusting Busquets? The likelihood
is no, but the potential is there, I
suppose! Robben and Ribery will
have to be very sure of themselves
in front of goal or they may very
well find themselves looking down
the barrel of a couple of away
goals.
In the end, this should be a tense
affair rather than the open-and-
insane PSG second leg: it has
draw written all over it. Probably
not 0-0 as that doesn’t benefit
either side a lot (technically it is
better for Munich), but 1-1 sound
about right. 2-2 if the teams
decide to really attack in the last
half an hour. The real fireworks
should come in the second leg,
when there is a clear winner and
loser from particular outcomes.
Bayern will want to put things to
rest in the first leg, of course, but
giving Barcelona space through
the middle is just asking for long-
term trouble. Even a 2-1 loss
wouldn’t make Barcelona panic, so
that’s very much a possibility It
should be noted that Bayern
Munich have a tremendous defense
record, having allowed just 14
goals in their 30 league matches.
Barcelona have allowed 33. Still,
with 99 goals to their credit, the
Catalans are hardly an impotent
offensive threat. Munich have 89
goals, so they’re actually
averaging fewer goals per game.
Official Prediction : 2-2. There’s
just too much attacking talent on
hand to not see goals. Despite
Munich’s sterling defensive record,
Messi scores something ludicrous
for such a injured little tyke. And
Iniesta gets on the end of an
Iniestazo that could be big news
later on.