Better known to English football fans as the other Champions League quarter-final.
Bayern Munich are in a state of flux. Hammered 5-1 at Wolfsburg on Saturday tells its own tale. But then again, so does the record-breaking 12-1 aggregate defeat of Sporting Lisbon in the last round. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team is far from stable, capable of collapsing almost as easily as they seem able to turn on the brilliance. There is no steady middle ground, and it’s all very un-German.
The problems for Bayern start at the back. Memories of Oliver Kahn in his prime are long gone, and in his place Michael Rensing is a gloved liability. Save for Philip Lahm at the back, who remains prone to the odd defensive lapse, things get steadily worse. Lucio, at 30-years-old, still has the mind and ambition of a 21-year-old but his body is slowly starting to creek and will miss the match injured. Of the understudies, mistakes seem to come far too easily and frequently for Daniel van Buyten and Martin Demichelis, Breno is still a pup learning his trade, while Massimo Oddo is another ageing soldier at right-back. Again, it’s all very un-German.
Things change dramatically for the better further up the field. On the left, the evergreen Ze Roberto has defied his critics to hold down a well-deserved place in the team. Joining the Brazilian in having an Indian summer is Bastien Schweinsteiger (16/1 to be the first scorer) who, much to the displeasure of his sizable group of detractors, is experiencing a season to justify his bloated reputation. Lukas Podolski and Luca Toni have the experience and the ability. Franck Ribery (10/3 to score) is simply magic.
The type of match seen at the Nou Camp will be determined by the Bayern which show up. However, the result barely looks in doubt.
Barcelona are flying this season and look set to break records. Unlike most of their English foes, they come into the business end of the season with the league as good as sown up and in the final of the Copa del Rey. Their domestic silverware is just readying itself to be picked up.
This has allowed Guardiola to bench Thierry Henry (5/4 to score) and use Lionel Messi (11/10 to score) and Daniel Alves sparingly as substitutes last Saturday in preparation for Wednesday night. The Champions League is the Catalans’ focus and it is questionable whether any team left in the competition can knock them out.
Messi. Henry. Eto’o. Iniesta. Xavi. Dani Alves. The names just roll off the tongue and, for the most part this season, so has the football oozed on the field. Bayern will have their hands full.
Full match odds here.