The Champions League is usually about pitting new teams against each other, creating unique clashes at the top of European football. Well, this particular game is anything but unique. Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona have faced each other practically every year since 2020, and the schtick is getting a little old now. For once though, it looks like the Bavarians are not overwhelming favorites going into the game.
To find out what’s changed with the Catalans (aside from signing a certain Robert Lewandowski) we caught up with Gill Clark of Barca Blaugranes to answer a few questions for us. Here’s what she said.
In light of Barcelona’s aggressive moves in the market last summer, how is the feeling around Laporta among local fans and club members?
I can’t speak for everyone but obviously there’s a lot of excitement and optimism after the signings Laporta made in the summer. Bringing in players like Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Jules Kounde is huge and improves the quality of the season massively. Expectations have been raised that Barca can win titles again and Laporta is clearly banking on that.
It goes without saying that fans are happy to have Laporta back after years of mismanagement with Bartomeu. The attendances are up too which probably speaks volumes. I think the average attendance last season was something like 55k but there were 77k for the Viktoria Plzen game and 84k for Real Valladolid.
That said, I do think there are many people wondering if all this mortgaging the future by activating all the levers is going to pay off and what happens if it doesn’t.
Between now and last December, what exactly has Xavi changed to make FC Barcelona different to the one Bayern beat?
In short, pretty much everything. He’s implemented rules, he’s got rid of the players he didn’t want and got everyone he did want (apart from Bernardo Silva). He wanted 2 players for every position and he has that now. His playing philosophy is no secret. We all know he wants to play with the ball, high up the pitch, and he loves having wingers. He’s backed players like Dembele and Eric Garcia and they have both started the season well.
It will be a much different team from the last time the two sides met. Probably only five players who started that match will start next week (Ter Stegen, Busquets, Gavi, Dembele and Araujo).
For years, Bayern Munich had Thomas Muller supplying Lewandowski with assists. Who is “that guy” at Barcelona?
Dembele definitely, but keep an eye on Pedri too. Dembele admitted in a new interview that the first thing Lewy told him was ‘you’re going to give me lots of assists’ and that’s happening already. You don’t need me to tell you about Dembele. He’s quick, a good dribbler, two-footed, can spot a pass, and if he can stay fit he’s going to get an awful lot of an eye on Pedri too he already seems to be loving playing with Lewandowski.
How does the Barca fanbase feel about these repeated games vs Bayern?
We’d quite like to play someone else to be honest! We’ve had Inter a fair bit in the Champions League recently too so this group wasn’t what anyone would have chosen. Obviously the Lewandowski transfer makes things a bit more interesting this time around but I think we would rather not have drawn Bayern again.
Given that we’ve become familiar facing each other over the years, who on this Bayern Munich team worries you the most?
We know Bayern are still a really strong team even without Lewy. I think Mane is a great signing, Thomas Muller always seems to score against us and then there’s Sane, Gnabry ... Looking forward to seeing Jamal Musiala too, particularly as he admitted he’s a Barca fan :)
BONUS: If you win, you’re not gonna rub it in, right?
No (but we will enjoy it!).
Well there you have it! That’s how the Barca side feels about this game. Huge thanks to Gill Clark for agreeing to do this QandA with us.
Check out our sister site over at Barca Blaugranes for coverage of the game from a Barca perspective. And if you’re looking for an in-depth preview of the game, why not listen to the latest episode of our podcast? We discuss Bayern’s decline in form and how Nagelsmann may set up against this new look Barcelona team. Listen to it below or at this link.