If the prospect of a fascinating footballing spectacle between two of the finest teams on the planet wasn’t enough to get the pulse racing, sub-plots galore promise to make Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final clash against Bayern Munich a belter.
Chief among these storylines is the spiritual homecoming of Barcelona folk hero Pep Guardiola, returning to the scene of unbridled success, firstly as a player and latterly as the Catalan club’s most decorated manager.
In a quite majestic spell as Barca boss between 2008 and 2012, Guardiola amassed 14 trophies, including three successive La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.
However, now trying to create another legacy at Bayern, where he’s just wrapped up a second Bundesilga, Guardiola will purely be focused on the job at hand.
Namely, the Spaniard will be desperate to erase the painful memory of that heavy defeat to Real Madrid at this stage of the competition a year ago, 5-0 on aggregate, while trying to emulate Bayern’s exploits on the way to glory instead.
The team he inherited had thrashed Barca 7-0 over two legs in 2012/13, a competition record for the last four, but looking at the make-up of the current Barca side, managed by his old Blaugrana teammate Luis Enrique, that feels far-fetched.
Barcelona are the 7/10 favourites to forge a first-leg victory and among a host of validating reasons such as Bayern’s dodgy away form in Europe, where they lost 3-1 at Porto last time making it DDL in the tournament, there are three hugely compelling ones.
Those are, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Although both these fantastic attacking sides have laid down markers by scoring frequently in their respective quarter-finals, the aforementioned trio should prove the difference, especially at the Camp Nou where Barca have won all five games in this season’s competition.
The golden triangle of Messi (2), Suarez (3) and Neymar (1) were all on target in an 8-0 thrashing of Cordoba in their last league game, taking their combined 2014/15 tally to 108.
This is eight more than Messi managed in cahoots with Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o under Guardiola in 2008/09, when the Catalan club scooped the first of his European titles.
In his current fettle, backing Suarez to score two or more times against the Bavarian behemoths looks exceptional value at 6/1, while an anytime Neymar strike – to follow his PSG double from the last eight – is another value alternative at 13/10.
That 8-0 crushing of Cordoba (while a heavily altered Bayern went down 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen) was the 13th time Enrique’s troops have notched five or more in a match this season.
These truly world class strikers contributing to 2-3 more Barca goals is therefore a steal at 11/10.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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