Barcelona may have a uniquely powerful trio in Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
But for the first time in a while they may not be considered favourites against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
This season, the Catalans have undergone a series of upsets in all competitions. But as it has been for a few years now, the Spanish titans are practically always regarded as the favourites ahead of every game they play.
Now however, Barcelona face an unparalleled challenge between April 23 and May 1, when they come up against 2011/12 finalists Bayern Munich in a two-leg matchup.
The Germans are currently enjoying a 20-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table after 29 games played. Yet, the Bavarians—who became the earliest Bundesliga winners in history on April 6 after a 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt with six matches left—are not only superpowers at domestic level.
Speaking of Champions League statistics this season, Bayern Munich so far hold the records for the biggest half-time lead and biggest win.
Both attainments were made in their 6-1 victory against LOSC Lille on November 7 last year; a match that remains the highest scoring game of this Champions League.
Bayern also occupy the second spot in the chart of highest-scoring teams in the competition with 22 goals, besting Barcelona by four goals.
Furthermore, whereas last year’s runners-up are presently the club with the most Champions League wins (seven), they are also the team with the most awarded corners. Their number of corners rises to 89, against a total of 66 for Barcelona.
This just goes to show how dominant Bayern Munich are whenever they are in action. Be it in set pieces, in front or in defence, the Germans incontestably have the aggression and efficiency needed to shake their Spanish challengers.
However, an area in which Barcelona have truly maintained their power is the midfield. Possession football, which is one of their play’s strongest characteristics, is something they could vastly rely on once again.
Considering Barcelona’s ball possession rate elevating itself at 68% (against 57% for Bayern), in addition to their passing accuracy reaching 83%, manager Jupp Heynckes will want to employ a strict plan in order to inflict maximum pressure on Los Cules in the two legs.
Certainly, this Champions League semi-final clash presents a 50-50 case, which could favour the luckiest side, and not the better side.
The team reaching the following stage will be playing its third final since 2009. At this point, we could be treated to an all-German final or an all-Spanish final – both are equally likely.
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