3 bold predictions for Barcelona-Bayern in Champions League group stages
Two European giants will meet in the opening week of the UEFA Champions League. Catalan pride Barcelona will meet Bavarian giants Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Tuesday and it was the opening of the world’s biggest club competition everyone was dreaming about. Not only are these amazing teams, but there is major recent history between them that should make this match explosive. As we all remember, Bayern absolutely destroyed Barca in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Champions League, winning 8-2.
The Catalans might be wounded by losing Lionel Messi in the offseason, but they should not be counted out. On the other hand, the Bavarians will be looking to open another Champions League campaign successfully and again reach the final, so they can repeat the success from two years ago. Here are some things to look out for in the upcoming match.
Barcelona will not roll over so easily
Even with Messi there, Barca was not successful in the last two Champions League seasons. The rout against Bayern was also mentioned and last year, it was PSG and Kylian Mbappe, who just ran circles around the Barcelona defense. However, that does not mean that Barca is going to be an easy opponent, not even for a giant like Bayern.
Losing Messi obviously hurts, but coach Ronald Koeman and president Joan Laporta did a good job in the summer, given the circumstances. Young center-back Eric Garcia was brought in from Manchester City and while he needs some time to adjust, he represents the future for the club. In the attack, Memphis Depay has been mesmerizing for the Catalans and it seems like at least some of the goals Messi was scoring will be replaced.
In addition to all of that, Barca still has an amazing midfield, headlined by young studs Frenkie De Jong and Pedri, with Busquets holding the line in front of the defense. They will have a challenge in front of them, with the Bayern midfield also being elite, but if they establish control early in the game, there is no reason why the game would not go in a different direction than everyone expects.
Bayern youngsters will be on display
Bayern has a very experienced squad, headlined by superstar striker Robert Lewandowski and German veteran Thomas Muller. Still, this experienced team has some young blood inside. Mostly, the focus in the last two years was on Alphonso Davies, but other pieces are also worth a closer look. New signing Dayot Upamecano is only 22, while products of their own school Josip Stanisic and Jamal Musiala are only 21 and 18, respectfully.
Both of them received a lot of playing time at the start of the season, but it is Musiala who truly impressed. He already scored in the Champions League, in their last campaign, and also opened his account in this edition of Bundesliga, scoring two from one start and three substitute appearances. His pace and ability in front of the goal are mesmerizing for his age and it seems like new coach Julian Nagelsmann will give him a lot of opportunities.
It also bodes well for the youngster that he is playing into a Barca defense that does not seem too stable at the start of the season. It is clear that Gerard Pique is slowly passing his prime, while new signing Garcia and Clement Lenglet are still not consistent enough to instill confidence of the Barca faithful. Musiala, should he start, and Lewandowski could have a field day.
Barcelona might pull it off and win
While everything said above about the Barcelona defense is true, it also depends on what Bayern team shows up. They have been somewhat volatile in the past, not showing up for games in the group stages, and here lies Barca’s opportunity. Most of the footballing world already wrote the three points in for the Bavarians, but it might not be as simple.
This Barcelona squad does not have that much pressure to perform anymore. The last couple of seasons, especially after the notorious Lionel Messi promise that the Champions League will return to Catalonia, this team had immense pressure to play outside of their skin, so Messi can get one more European trophy before retiring. Now, the expectation is simply to do their best and it was shown in the past that when the pressure is completely off, teams can perform better.
It will be difficult since the opponent is Bayern, but that does not mean that they will simply give up right away. Depay can score against everyone and the midfield, if it performs up to their true skill level, can take over and completely control the pace of the game. The defense will need to pull an absolute masterclass to stop the potent attack the Bavarians possess, but it will not be impossible.
Bayern is a huge favorite coming into the game, but with Camp Nou now being open to fans and with Barca players playing without any pressure, anything can truly happen. Who knows, we might have some of that Tuesday night Champions League magic and the neutrals can enjoy a truly amazing game, worthy of the stature of these two teams.