Bayern Munich – Barcelona 23.04.2013
This is a very interesting and unpredictable semi-final.
Barcelona is surely the best European team, Messi is officially the best player in the World. But Bayern is in terrific form, like no other team. The Bavarians have played 24 matches in 2013 (Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Champions League and friendly games) and guess what – they won 23 times. Even the only defeat was a success. They lost 0:2 from Arsenal in the second leg of UEFA Chamapions League, after won 3:1 at Emirats in the first leg, a result that guaranteed them progress.
Some players were rested on Saturday (Philippe Lahm, Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger) and they should all return to the starting eleven for this match. However, the long-term injured Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber are still sidelined. In addition, the striker Mario Mandzukic is suspended, but I strongly believe his replacement Mario Gomez is equally good.
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Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has one problem – Lionel Messi. As You probably know, Messi missed the last two matches with a hamstring strain. The Argentinian has returned to full training now and will play at Allianz Arena. His presence is a big boost for all the others, even he is not fully prepared. But Vilanova has some other missing players. The captain Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are injured, while Adriano is suspended. They are all in the shadow of Messi’s injury, but their absence is a big problem. Vilanova announced that the youngster Marc Bartra will start as second central defender (Gerard Pique is the other) and his inexperience could be crucial.
At this point I will mention that Barcelona have showed some weaknesses when the Champions League matches on road are in question. The Blaugrana suffered a 2:0 defeat at San Siro and played a 2:2 draw in Paris.
I think Bayern is closer to the victory. The German champions have won three of their six previous meetings with Barcelona in European competition, with two draws and only one defeat. I expect another win for in-form Bayern.