Crisis-hit Bayern with mountain to climb against Barca
MUNICH – Bayern Munich will not only have to overturn a 3-0 Champions League semi-final first leg deficit against Barcelona on Tuesday but they will have to do it against a superb defence and in the midst of their biggest slump in years.
The injury-hit hosts face the monumental task of breaking down Barca’s mean defence, which has not leaked a goal in their last seven outings in all competitions, a club record.
During that run they have rattled in 25 goals, with their South American attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in scintillating form.
Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Real Sociedad stretched their lead over second-placed Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to four points, leaving them on course for a fifth Spanish league title in seven years and a possible treble.
Barca coach Luis Enrique, in his first season in charge, has found the right mix of defensive solidity and attacking verve.
“We have a game plan and we execute it superbly,” the former Barca and Spain midfielder said.
“The idea, from the start, is to create problems for the opponent,” added the 45-year-old. “When many think it’s better to run back, we run forward.”
Five-times European champions Bayern, on the other hand, have lost their last four matches in all competitions since retaining their Bundesliga crown, including a 1-0 home league loss to Augsburg on Saturday.
Their losing run, which includes a German Cup semi-final exit on penalties to Borussia Dortmund, has put coach Pep Guardiola under pressure for the first time in his second season in charge.
The Spaniard, hired to repeat their 2013 treble-winning season, has so far failed to deliver on the European stage for Bayern and the challenge against former club Barcelona looks even tougher without several of his players.
David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Holger Badstuber are all still out, forcing Guardiola to rethink his strategy against the club where he won the trophy in 2009 and 2011.
“If we only focus on scoring goals on Tuesday then we will lose like we did last year to Real (Madrid in the semis),” he said. “We have to remain calm, control our game and see what can come out of it.”
Few believe the Bavarians in their current form are any match for dazzling Barca, who scored three goals in 17 minutes in the first leg.
But Bayern did it against Porto when they beat them 6-1 after losing their quarter-final first leg 3-1 away.
“Nothing worked for us in the past few games,” said captain Philipp Lahm. “We cannot convert our chances at the moment. But the time has to come when we start doing that again.” – Reuters