Barcelona must respect, not fear, Bayern Munich

Posted by Francesc Tomas

It's official: Barcelona will face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals. The away match will be played at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday April 23, with the Blaugranas having the crucial opportunity to seal progression to the final in front of 99,000 devoted supporters at the majestic Camp Nou a week later.

The Cules have been within the top 4 teams in the biggest competition in European football in 7 of the last 8 years, lifting the trophy on three occasions during that period, showing that the current generation has the necessary experience at the highest level. Contrary to what doubters seem to think lately, the team remains as hungry for glory as ever before, always eager to face the next difficult challenge ahead.

While I didn't necessarily mind which of the three possible opponents to face, the vast majority of Cules (68%) would have preferred to face Borussia Dortmund, followed by Real Madrid with a quarter of the votes. The fact that only a tiny 7% of supporters wanted the Bavarians in the next round shows the immense respect the next rival has in already earned in Catalunya thanks to the quality of their squad, strength of recent performances and successful history.

Bayern Munich have been impressive all year and, after winning the Bundesliga with a record six matches to go, are still on target to win the treble. The German champions have only lost twice (away at BATE and at home to Arsenal) and drawn one (at the Mestalla against Valencia) in Europe this season and managed to knock Serie A leaders Juventus out with a confident 4-0 aggregate win in the previous round.

Having said that, I feel Barcelona have enough quality to achieve qualification for the next round as long as they can play to their strengths: High-tempo, purposeful passing; collective defensive pressing across the whole pitch when dispossessed; triangular combinations in the rival's final third and last, but certainly not least, individual glimpses of brilliance from either Lionel Messi or any of his other attacking teammates.

Jupp Heynckes has already boasted about knowing Barcelona "like the back of my own hand, maybe even better than my own team". The fact is, so does every football fan around the world. After so many years in the spotlight, it is no secret that the Catalans struggle when not in control of the game, Messi is taken out of the attacking equation and when defending set-pieces. Whether such knowledge is enough for the German manager to lead his team into the next round remains to be seen.

The Pep Guardiola factor

Many may argue that facing Pep Guardiola's next team adds an extra motivational boost but the prospect of lifting the trophy at the legendary Wembley stadium for the third time (following the resounding triumphs of 1992 and 2011) in a hypothetical final is too exciting to waste any time thinking about what the previous manager may do with his own professional future.

In Barcelona, the overall success of the club has always been prioritised above the people, whatever their name may be, and focus must rightfully remain on winning football matches on the pitch, not external distractions.

The dream Clasico final

Despite the understandable hype that a potential Champions League final against Real Madrid may cause, I personally feel that looking ahead to what may be in the next round is a dangerously pointless exercise considering the major difficulty of the task in hand.

In fact, the possibility of the two biggest La Liga clubs competing in the final was also there last season but Chelsea and Bayern Munich had different ideas. Underestimating any rivals at this highly competitive level would be suicidal; let's take one step at a time.

Final Word

In their previous meeting, Barcelona knocked Bayern Munich out of the 2009 Champions League quarter finals with an aggregate 5-1 scoreline. While such a result would obviously be welcome with open arms by the Catalan giants, common sense leads me to expect a considerably tougher match-up against one of the best teams in Europe this season.

While full respect must be given to their upcoming rivals, Tito Vilanova's men must remain confident on their own abilities and focus on ensuring that they reach the crucial away match at the Allianz Arena in the best possible shape and develop their usual game once the ball finally kicks off.

Looking forward to another exciting chapter of Blaugrana history -- Bring it on!

Have your say

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

Follow Francesc Tomas at @BarcablogESPN and Facebook for more news and opinion notes on Barcelona; 33,000 Cules have already joined.

ESPN Conversations