This is it. With only one more day to go until Bayern Munich face Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, the time for speculation and analysis has passed. Now, the only thing left to discuss are the cold hard facts about the game.
Hansi Flick and his men have been preparing all week at a training camp in Portugal. According to Bild, the coach even went as far as to divide the pitch into a grid composed of 30 squares, to help the defense see where they’re leaving too much space. The reason? Barca’s little monster — Leo Messi. He’s so good that, in focusing on trying to stop him, the Bavarians could leave gaps elsewhere for others to exploit.
The fact that one player can warrant such precautions from the coach tells you that Bayern Munich are in for a really big game tomorrow. This is BIG Champions League game, the ones against Chelsea and Tottenham just don’t compare. So let’s take a look at how the team stacks up.
Given the nature of the game, there is no room for experimentation. Hansi Flick will surely opt for Robert Lewandowski up top, supported by our favorite Raumdeuter, Thomas Muller. Kingsley Coman has apparently recovered from the muscular issues that plagued him in the Chelsea game, so he and Serge Gnabry are the favorites to start on the flanks. Philippe Coutinho probably would’ve wanted to start against his former team, but unfortunately the Brazilian hasn’t proven himself fit to face opposition on this level. He, along with Ivan Perisic, will be Bayern’s offensive subs on the bench.
The midfield is set in stone, and probably the part of the pitch where most of the action will take place. Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka will have to be wary, as Sport reported that Setien plans to line up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Arturo Vidal, Frenkie de Jong, Sergi Roberto, and Sergio Busquets in the center. Bayern relies on its midfield to hold possession and progress the ball, so Thiago and Goretzka will have their work cut out against Barca’s quartet of ball winners overloading the center of the pitch.
Given the significance of the center, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas Muller and Leo Messi drop back to help out their respective team’s midfields. It’s cliche, but in a high level football game like this, the midfield battle could really end up deciding the match.
Finally, there’s the defense. All eyes will be on David Alaba and Alphonso Davies, as the duo will be tasked with keeping an eye on Messi all game long. Jerome Boateng will pair Alaba at center back, and he will hopefully look to banish his demons from the last time Bayern faced Barca in a Champions League tie. Joshua Kimmich, meanwhile, will start at right back for the injured Benjamin Pavard. If Ousmane Dembele or Antoine Griezmann starts, he will be the one tasked with marking them.
Finally, you have the ultimate goalkeeper grudge match — Manuel Neuer vs Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The two Germans will be hell-bent on proving their supremacy over the other, and Neuer has the added pressure of being the captain and seniormost member of the Bayern team. This game will be full of interesting narratives, and here’s how we think the Bavarians will line up tomorrow:
Quick update in case people were not sure, Flick confirmed Coman is fit to play.
Another outlet predicts a 4-4-2 for Barcelona.