AAP Soccer

Barca, Bayern meet in heavyweight ECL tie

By AAP Newswire

From attacking stars Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski to goalkeepers Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer, the Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Bayern Munich on Friday is a duel of superstars.

Both clubs have won the elite event five times, and knocked out the other in the semi-finals when they won their last title, Bayern in 2013 and Barca in 2015.

Players including Mark van Bommel, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal have worn both shirts, and Louis van Gaal and Pep Guardiola have coached both sides as well.

Now their paths cross for the first time in a one-legged match, and the winner could face Guardiola in the semis, provided that Manchester City beat Olympique Lyon in their last-eight match.

Many pundits believe Bayern are the top title favourites in Lisbon.

"I think we can beat any opponent. Nevertheless, we know that a very good team is waiting for us with world-class players. We will play with a lot of confidence, like we have over the past nine months," midfielder Leon Goretzka said.

Bayern are unbeaten since December in all competitions, winning 26 of those 27 matches, and all 12 since the restart from the coronavirus suspension in May as they bagged another Bundesliga and German Cup double in their quest for a treble.

Polish marksman Lewandowski has been a major factor in their successful season, scoring 53 goals in all competitions and looking set for a personal treble of ending up top scorer in all three events.

He tops the Champions League scoring charts this season with 13 goals, just four shy of Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 17 in one campaign, and was involved in all seven goals Bayern scored in the last-16 tie against Chelsea.

"It is the icing on the cake to know that you have a striker up front who always scores," attacking partner Serge Gnabry said, and Goretzka added that "Lewy is in unbelievable form."

Lewandowski, who lost the 2013 final with Borussia Dortmund against Bayern before joining them, admitted winning the Champions League "is the big aim for every player" but he also warned that nothing is decided yet.

"First we must beat Barca. They are dangerous and we must show our quality," he said.

Bayern's 4-1 demolition of Chelsea on Saturday showed they are ready to aim for the title.

But Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge say Messi "has something that possibly no one else on this planet has" while Goretzka urged a "collective" effort to contain him.

The last man to stop Messi, Lewandowski and others from scoring is the goalkeeper.

It will be a duel between Bayern's Germany captain Neuer and Barca's ter Stegen, who would be first choice in every national team if he wasn't a German as well.

"I think you can say they are the two best goalkeepers in the world," Goretzka said. "We are really blessed with goalkeepers in Germany."