Barcelona making right noises but hard to see Bayern capitulating
German side have won 17 away games on the bounce and it’s over a year since they failed to score away goal
Bayern’s Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez training at Camp Nou.
Just before kick-off tonight at Camp Nou 90,000 strategically placed cards will be held up in those familiar shades of red, blue and yellow. The kaleidoscope of colour will spell out the word “Orgull”. It translates from Catalan as “pride” and is possibly all Barcelona have to play for unless they can conjure up one of the great Champions League comebacks.
Ordinarily such a scenario would not even be up for debate bearing in mind the expertise that Bayern Munich demonstrated at the Allianz Arena last week to put themselves in such a position of control, with a 4-0 lead.
Yet Barcelona are not an ordinary side and there have been 84 occasions in the past four seasons when they have scored four or more goals.
Fifty-nine of those have come on their own ground and 14 in the Champions League. There is, at the very least, still a flicker of hope. The Barca defender Gerard Pique has summed up this match as “a chance to be a boy again, to dream about what might happen and to see if it can come true”.
Like fairies at the bottom of the garden, you might say, given the way Bayern overpowered them in Bavaria and given the enduring qualities that have brought Jupp Heynckes’s side to the verge of a final as well as another Bundesliga title. Bayern have won 17 away games on the bounce and it is over a year since they failed to score an away goal.
However, they should be braced for a more sustained challenge this time, rather than the subdued effort Barcelona put up last week.
It is difficult, nonetheless, to imagine a side of Bayern’s quality capitulating. Heynckes could even be forgiven if it is in his thinking that six of his players – Javi Martinez, Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luiz Gustavo, Dante and Philipp Lahm – would miss the final with another yellow card. If Bayern are holding out comfortably in the second half, it would make sense to make strategic withdrawals.
For now, though, Heynckes is taking care not to say anything that could be seen as being complacent or triumphalist. “We can’t think too much about the first-leg result,” he said.
“People are talking about a German final at Wembley but there is still Barcelona. We have to play with the same passion, the same concentration and the same tactical plan. We want to prove that match in Munich wasn’t a one-off.”
There is also the feeling here that Barcelona are desperate, if nothing else, to show the football world they are considerably better than was evident in the first leg.
As they left Munich that night, Tito Vilanova’s players talked about trying to retrieve the damage but it felt as if they were going through the motions. A week on they sound as if they mean it.
“After a 4-0 result you do doubt yourself but, as days go on, you suddenly believe you can do it,” Pique said. “Football is very psychological. We represent a club that does not consider giving up, a club that has won a lot and has a long history. We represent FC Barcelona and we will want to give a good image. We believe we will turn this around, 100 per cent.”
Vilanova has made similar noises, claiming there is “no way” his team are out of it. Sandro Rosell, the president, has backed up that position, arguing a comeback is eminently possible and that “people should believe in it.”
Barcelona’s official website, meanwhile, has been running a feature about the 12 occasions since 1959-60 when the team have lost in the first game of a two-legged European tie and how, in eight of them, they have fought back to win. “One thing’s for sure, you can never write this Barca off,” it concludes.
What it fails to mention is that never before have Barcelona come back from a 4-0 deficit and that they will have to try on this occasion with an experimental defence due to Jordi Alba’s suspension and an injury list that means Marc Bartra partners Pique.