Champions League Group E: Barcelona v Bayern Munich
Kick-off: 8pm. Venue: Camp Nou. How to watch: Live on BT Sport 3 and Livescore.
Barcelona are still digesting the shock of losing Lionel Messi but are not yet counting out the chance of an unlikely tilt for the Champions League, captain Sergio Busquets said ahead of Tuesday's meeting at home to Bayern Munich.
Bayern dished out Barça’s worst-ever European defeat little more than a year ago when they thrashed the Catalans 8-2 in the quarter-finals of the 2019-20 competition, leading to Messi first declaring his intention to leave.
Messi’s departure for Paris Saint-Germain came a year later due to the club’s colossal financial problems, despite the player rowing back on his pledge to leave and preparing to take a 50 per cent pay cut.
“It was a shock given everything Leo did for Barça and for me,” midfielder Busquets told a virtual news conference on Monday.
“We felt a number of sensations which were difficult to digest but we have to try and move on. We’re only at the start of the season and we have to get used to playing without Leo.”
Barça have undergone radical changes since that seismic defeat by Bayern in 2020, parting not just with Messi but also Luis Suárez, hapless coach Quique Setién and then president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Busquets admitted to being badly affected by the humiliating defeat but stressed the team have made progress under coach Ronald Koeman.
“It was difficult to accept, but that’s how football is. Some time has passed and we’re confident things are going to be different,” he added.
Barça suffered their earliest exit from the Champions League in 14 years when they were knocked out by PSG in the last 16 last season, and expectations in Europe’s top competition have been further lowered by Messi’s departure.
But Busquets said the club were heading in the right direction under Koeman.
“We’ve had to deal with some difficult situations in the last year with a lot of changes at all levels of the club, and he [Koeman] was brought here to make those changes and has had a big impact,” he said.
“Anything can happen in football. Chelsea won the competition last season when they weren’t favourites at the start.
“The important thing is how we are as a collective and now we know we don’t have Leo nor his individual brilliance. We’re excited and aware of the difficulty but we’re very ambitious and we want to win.”
Barça have seven points from three games in La Liga and enjoyed a weekend off as Saturday’s match with Sevilla was postponed due to South American players returning late from World Cup qualifiers.
Bayern have 10 points from their opening four Bundesliga games and have scored 12 goals in their last three fixtures, winning 4-1 at RB Leipzig on Saturday.
The last time the two sides met in the Champions League, Bayern thrashed Barcelona 8-2 in the quarter-finals en route to the title in the 2019-20 season, but Bayern's captain, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, said that result would have no bearing on the game at the Camp Nou.
“So many things have changed in the meantime. We’re not thinking about that 8-2 win. We’re playing a new team, we have a new team,” Neuer said.
“We’ll obviously never forget our game in 2020, but these are two new group stage games and we’re looking forward to two big ones.”
Coach Julian Nagelsmann said Serge Gnabry would have to pass a late fitness test to play but Corentin Tolisso was left out due to a calf problem. Kingsley Coman is also in the squad but may not start the game.
The German coach said new signing Marcel Sabitzer needed more time to adapt to the team before the midfielder can make the starting lineup.
“Marcel has to acclimatise here,” Nagelsmann said. “He arrived two days earlier than those who travelled for the international break but only trained once with the squad before the RB Leipzig game.”