Barcelona’s starting line-up against AC Milan may have been extremely similar to that Pep Guardiola would have picked if he was still in charge, but that is where the similarities end.
The 2-0 San Siro defeat has pushed Barcelona’s price out to 4/1 to win the Champions League and the result was the first time they had lost a fixture by two goals in 133 matches.
Lionel Messi didn’t manage a single shot against Milan and the club lack somebody to help take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders, a la Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o or David Villa previously.
Opposing defences have learnt to pack out the central areas and get men behind the ball, leaving even Barcelona struggling to pick holes through.
The lack of a plan B is also obvious and little successful tweaks were a feature of Guardiola’s tenure. It is hard to believe he wouldn’t have found a way of breaking down an ordinary Celtic or done more to make life difficult for Milan.
The fact is, Barcelona may still have the best team of players, but in Europe in particular, they do not look the force of previous seasons.
Bayern Munich are now 11/4 favourites to win the Champions League and a victory would certainly be deserved after the heartbreak of their loss to Chelsea in last year’s final.
They have improved defensively since, have the right blend of players in midfield and strikers that can score goals, while their pressing as a team has been great to watch.
Bayern may not have that single match winner like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Robin van Persie, but they showed against Arsenal that they are serious contenders.
Driven by their Chelsea failure, there seems no obvious reason to suggest their train will become derailed in the coming months.
There is certainly the argument that they are already the new best team in Europe, a worrying thought when Guardiola is still to sprinkle his magic on the squad.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.