‘We are Bayern Munich and we keep our heads held high’

German champions defiant after 3-0 first leg defeat against Barcelona

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Bayern Munich’s Thiago, Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat and Mehdi Benatia all in pursuit. Photo: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Bayern Munich’s Thiago, Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat and Mehdi Benatia all in pursuit. Photo: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

 

Bayern will need a Munich miracle to retain their dream of reaching the Champions League final on home soil after the five-time champions slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Barcelona in their semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

The Bavarians were hoping to set the foundations for their fourth final appearance in six seasons next month in Berlin, and a first under coach Pep Guardiola, with a solid display in Spain.

Instead they were outclassed by the Catalans, who scored three times in the last 13 minutes to go into next week’s return leg as overwhelming favourites after Bayern ran out of steam towards the end of the game.

“I am not really a friend of big words because when you lose 3-0 then the chances are obviously not great,” club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a post-midnight dinner in Barcelona.

“But maybe there will be a football wonder in Munich.”

One more time

The Bavarians have already overturned a big first-leg deficit once this campaign when they lost 3-1 at Porto in the quarter-finals only to crush them 6-1 back in Munich.

But after Lionel Messi scored twice in a scintillating performance and Neymar added a late third as part of an impressive team display, few believe Bayern can turn it around once more against a side as strong as Barcelona.

Missing key players, especially injured wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, the Bavarians lack the kind of pace down either flank that would cause major problems for any team.

“Without Arjen and Franck we did not have our two counter-attack players and that made things difficult,” said Guardiola, who won 14 triphies in four years at Barca.

“The return leg now becomes very complicated but we will give it a shot.”

Miracle needed

Robben is out for the rest of the season, while Ribery, already injured for about two months, remains doubtful for the return leg, with David Alaba and Holger Badstuber also out.

Only a few weeks ago, Bayern looked on course for a repeat of their 2013 treble but after last week’s German Cup exit and their loss to Barcelona, they now need to stage a monumental upset just to reach the final.

“We are Bayern and we keep our heads held high,” midfielder Thomas Mueller said. “We cannot expect to have a return leg like we had against Porto.”

“But the 11 players who will be on the pitch will fight until the last second but it is clear that we now need a small football wonder.”

Meanwhile Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has told his players they cannot relax ahead of the return leg in Munich.

“In the last 15 minutes we won the game but not the tie,” Luis Enrique said in his club’s official website. “In Munich we will not be speculating with the result.

“Getting into the Champions League final is a very big prize and I am sure that the team will take the second leg as responsibly as they should.

“We are going to try to win the return leg and make our fans happy. We need their support and it will be harder over there because they will have their fans.

“We don’t see ourselves in the final yet.

“I remember a team (AC Milan) that was winning a Champions League final 3-0 at half-time only to then lose (against Liverpool in 2005).”

Wednesday’s performance was a special one for Barcelona, not only because it put them a big step closer to the Champions League final, but because their former boss Guardiola was at the helm of Bayern and was returning for the first time since leaving the Catalan club in 2013.

Messi magic

All eyes were on Guardiola before proceedings, but once the match started, the man to take centre stage was Messi.

The Argentinian has been in top form the past several weeks.

“We are used to Messi showing us that he is a player from another dimension,” Luis Enrique said.

Messi’s magic allowed Barca to break the deadlock in the 77th minute and his wonder goal three minutes later brought the fans at the Nou Camp stadium to their feet.

The South American would then set up Neymar for Barca’s third.

“When Messi is inspired, nobody can stop him,” Barca defender Gerard Pique said. “His second goal was incredible.

“It’s a pleasure to have him with us.”

Messi has scored eight goals in seven Champions League starts for Barca this season.

“Messi does things that nobody else does,” Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta said. “We are lucky to be able to enjoy having him.

“I take my hat off to him once again.”

Messi has also been pivotal in Barca’s domestic campaign.

The Argentina international has scored 40 goals and set up 11 in 35 league appearances to help Barca remain at the top of La Liga.

“Having Messi in the team guarantees everything,” Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “He doesn’t just score goals, he gives assists, he works and wins the ball. He’s the best player in the world.”

Messi and Barca return to Primera Division action on Saturday at home to Real Sociedad before they travel to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday to face Bayern in the return leg.

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