To reach the Champions League final, Bayern Munich will have to stop Barcelona's attacking force. Germany's head coach believes they can progress, but Pep Guardiola says they need an away goal.
Even for the success-spoiled Bayern Munich, Wednesday's Champions League semifinal is a match like no other. The fact that striker Robert Lewandowski has travelled to Barcelona proves that. A week ago, the Polish striker broke his upper jaw and nose in a clash with Borussia Dortmund's goalkeeper Mitch Langerak in Bayern's German Cup semifinal defeat.
"I'm back," tweeted the striker, with a picture of the carbon-fiber mask he has been wearing in training.
"Robert has no fear," said teammate Jerome Boateng. "He's very brave. He'll get used to the mask. It won't be that much of a problem."
When asked in the pre-match press conference whether Mario Götze would play, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola refused to discuss his potential starting line-up. But he made an exception with Lewandowski, saying the Polish forward would be on the pitch if fit. Bayern simply cannot do without their leading striker against Barcelona. An away goal would improve their chances of making the final on June 6 in Berlin.
"We absolutely need a goal," Guardiola said. "It will be almost impossible to reach the final without a goal here."
Meanwhile, Barca are in devastating form. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have combined for 108 goals in all competitions this season. Bayern's defense and Manuel Neuer had better be on their toes.
In the 2013 semifinal, Bayern ran rings around Barcelona as Thomas Müller enjoyed a particularly special night
Löw's a believer
Bayern are without many of their leading players: Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber are all out injured. Nevertheless, Germany head coach Joachim Löw believes Bayern can still progress.
"Of course Bayern have a chance against Barcelona. Even if Barcelona appears to be in better form at the moment, Bayern still have, despite the injuries, enough top players to handle it," said Löw to German newspaper "Bild". "They still have six World Cup winners available and also have the advantage of the second leg being in their own stadium."
Löw doesn't believe though that Guardiola's knowledge of previous employers Barcelona will prove decisive.
"It will be a very emotional game for him," Löw said. He played there and enjoyed a lot of success as a head coach there. Whether he has sporting advantages as a result? I don't think so. At this level, it is difficult to surprise anyone, and you can be sure that both teams know everything about each other."
Statistics or ter Stegen?
Barcelona's superstar Lionel Messi agrees. "Guardiola knows our team well and we know how he likes to play - there's no advantage for either team in that," said the four-time Ballon d'Or winner at the press conference before the game.
While much ink has been spilled about Bayern's Spanish contingent, Barecelona also have a prominent German player: goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
"He's a good goalkeeper and pleasantly surprised me on his first day, Messi said. "I didn't even know him, but his qualities could make him become the best goalkeeper in the world."
Five wins, two draws and one defeat is Bayern's record against Barcelona, and the Catalonians have a score to settle. Bayern destroyed them in the 2013 Champions League semifinal. The Germans won 7-0 on aggregate on their way to the title.
But Bayern have also been on the end of such a footballing lesson though. Back in 2009, Barcelona beat them 5-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals.