Lionel Messi has eight goals in the Champions League this season. Image courtesy of uefa.com
No team has ever overcome a 4-0 first leg deficit to reach the next stage of the UEFA Champions League, but that is the task facing Barcelona when they welcome Bayern Munich to the Nou Camp on Thursday morning (AEST). The Spanish giants were no match for their German opponents in Munich last week and will have to improve considerably if they are too have any chance of reaching a second European Cup final at Wembley in two years.
If Barcelona is to have any chance of toppling Bundesliga champions Bayern, they need Argentine hitman Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers. His playing time has been restricted by a hamstring injury lately however and he only came onto the field for the final half hour of his side’s draw with Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on the weekend although he is sure to start in the Champions League semi-final. Both Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano played no part in Bilbao but could return, although the former is more likely to take the field having been rested purely as a precaution.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes made ten changes for his sides 1-0 win over SC Freiburg in the league on the weekend, but is set to field his strongest available XI at the Nou Camp. Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez are all likely to return to the lineup but are amongst seven players that would miss the decider through suspension if they were to be booked on Thursday morning (AEST).
This season’s tie is in complete contrast to the2008/09 quarter-final between these clubs when Barcelona took the first leg 4-0 at home before the second leg finished 1-1 . Barca hasn’t lost at home in Europe for four years and has won ten in a row at home against German opposition in Spain, including a 7-1 victory over their most recent Bundesliga visitors Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the last 16 last season. Bayern drew 1-1 at Valencia in the group stages of the current campaign but has just one win in Spain since 2001.
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