On Wednesday night, Barça will play a strong Bayern side at the Allianz Arena in the final Group E game, aiming to win at a ground they have had to endure several defeats in the past, to book a place in the Champions League round of 16.
“It’s like a final,” these were the words that escaped Depay’s lips speaking to Barcelona’s official website. There is little doubt FC Barcelona will treat this game as a sort of final. A game which could really breathe new life into their dismal season thus far. Or, alternatively, by the end of this match, and if results elsewhere are unfavorable, doubts and uncertainties which have been eating away at Barcelona for so long a time may be made to fester.
For all Barcelona’s zest and vindictiveness coming into this game, Bayern who have long qualified with top-spot already claimed, will treat this fixture as just another fixture. As a mere contest to enrich their supremacy and further enhance their good reputation as the club to beat in this season’s Champions League. So far, after five Group E games played, Bayern sit tyrannically atop the table.
With five wins after five games, 19 goals scored and only 3 conceded, Bayern’s absolute dominance in Group E comes as no surprise. How does Barça tear into Bayern at Allianz Arena and tear them apart? Can a team so frail in La Liga conjure up a spirited exhibition to dismantle Germany’s leading club at their own backyard? How does that really happen beyond empty pre-match comments and renewed enthusiasm?
No past wins in Bayern’s stadium
If history is anything to go by, then Barça will be on a mission to do the impossible in Germany. Xavi Hernandez, the young coach tasked to drag FC Barcelona from their recent dark past into a promising future, has firsthand knowledge of what an uphill battle this is. As a player himself, he suffered 3 defeats in 4 games at Allianz Arena. Never once won there with the other game ending in a 1-1 stalemate.
Is it really possible that a young, faintly inexperienced manager, about to make his second Champions League debut, could inspire his feeble side to an unlikely win at the home turf of one of Europe’s top dogs? Is this really possible? It’s worth noting football has always been a game of predictability and unpredictability.
One moment you are cocksure the outcome of a particular contest won’t mutate into anything else. The next you are made to second-guess. This is why we all subscribe to this sport. The emotional rollercoaster it brings us. The ability of it to strengthen our viewpoint. The ability of it to prove us utterly wrong, too.
Can FC Barcelona, who have racked up a paltry 2 goals in 5 Champions League games, outscore a Bayern side who have hit the back of the net 19 times? Perhaps the context of this game should be factored in. The fact that Bayern have nothing to lose and Barça everything to lose. Perhaps Bayern might make a few alterations to their starting lineup and rest key players. Perhaps the intensity with which the German champions will play this game will drop a level.
Missing many players
The goods news for Barcelona is that, Ousmane Dembele is likely to start. The bad news is, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Braithwaite and Aguero are still nursing injuries or ruled out due to heart problems. In the first encounter between these two teams at the Camp Nou this season, Barcelona were obliterated 3-0. An emphatic win for Bayern and a reminder to Barça how the mighty have fallen.
A win will suffice for FC Barcelona to make it into the round of 16. The Spanish club sit two points above Benfica. But should Barcelona fail to win at Bayern, they would hope Benfica who play as hosts to Dynamo Kyiv, will produce a similar outcome in that game in Portugal. In which case, Barça don’t sink into Europa and oblivion.