After last week’s debacle in Bavaria, FC Barcelona will be looking to restore some pride in their semi final second leg against Bayern Munchen at Camp Nou. Make no mistake about it, this tie is over. Even the most “glass half full” supporter has to admit that. Sure, we can dream about the most spectacular comeback ever seen in European club competition, but surely that’s all it is; a dream?
Barca go into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw at San Mames against Athletic Bilbao. Ander Herrera’s last gasp goal denied Tito’s men a comforting win on their last visit to the wonderful old stadium, but the return to goalscoring form of Lionel Messi will provide some faint hope for the manager of Mission Impossible actually being achievable. If last week’s thrashing can be looked at in any sort of a positive way, surely it has shown to the club’s hierarchy that strengthening the defence is the priority this summer, and not the endless flirtation with Neymar.
Bayern, meanwhile, continued their domination of the Bundesliga with a 1-0 home win over Freiburg. The much changed lineup produced the scoreline that has set a new points record in Germany, and all without some of their biggest names, as they prepare for what is likely to be a night of defending in Catalonia.
While Jupp Heynckes has a strong squad to pick from, Vilanova has anything but. Several defensive players are out; Busquets, Puyol, Abidal and Mascherano are injured, while Jordi Alba is suspended after accumulating yellow cards. That means that Marc Bartra is likely to start again at centre back, with Alex Song in defensive midfield. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the comeback does it! This is the lineup I think we will see tomorrow night:
Valdes, Alves, Pique, Bartra, Montoya, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Alexis.
Martin Montoya is the only option available to Vilanova for the left back slot, making the defence even more makeshift. Alex Song does not fill me with the same confidence that Busquets or Mascherano do, while I think the other players are just tired. They have played an awful lot of top level football over the years, and it looks as though it is finally catching up with them. Yes, I know they are top level athletes, and other clubs have to deal with it, but they are also getting older, and are bound to feel the effects eventually.
So, can the dream come true? Well, it can. It just most likely won’t. I think we saw the passing of the baton last week, and when you consider that Bayern will have Pep, Gotze, and maybe Lewandowski too next season, it could have been passed for a while. Oh, go on then. Let’s dream. Barca to win 5-0!