Barca vs. Bayern: Xoel's Thoughts on the Matchup
On Friday morning, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. local time to turn on the TV in my bedroom and watch the UEFA Champions League draw.
Call it dedication, or insanity.
I say a bit of both.
Bayern Munich earned the honor and privilege to play FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semifinal. The first leg will be played on April 23 at the Allianz Arena, and the second leg will be played on May 1 at the Camp Nou.
Let's talk quickly about the other semifinal.
For me, I am not disappointed that Barça didn't get Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp's team is a solid foe, and they should not be underestimated. Just look at what they did in their group stage—the so-called group of death.
Dortmund also went unbeaten against Real Madrid in their two group stage games, including a 2-1 win in Germany and a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. I'm very confident Klopp's men will give Jose Mourinho's squad all they can handle.
Once again, Real Madrid will have their hands full with Dortmund.
As I mentioned on Twitter, all FC Barcelona fans are now part-time Dortmund fans.
And how awesome are the people at Dortmund and their Twitter account @BVB? They replied back to me when I mentioned them on Twitter! Take a look:
@xoelcardenas "Auf geht's, Dortmund, kämpfen und siegen!". To start with...— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) April 12, 2013
Força Dortmund! Auf geht's, Dortmund, kämpfen und siegen!
Bayern Munich vs. FC Barcelona
OK, let's chat about Barça's matchup.
The bad news is, of course, that Barcelona will have to face the team that is arguably playing the best football in Europe. Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title last week and will certainly rest many of their starters from now until the first-leg game on April 23.
My concern is how the thin Barcelona defense will be able to handle the likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the flanks. With Dani Alves and Jordi Alba always moving forward to play offense, the likelihood of a Bayern counterattack hurting Tito Vilanova's team could be high.
Don't forget about the middle of the attack as well. Mario Mandzukic is suspended for the first leg, which is a positive for Barcelona. Nevertheless, Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra will need to hold off Thomas Muller and either Mario Gomez or Claudio Pizarro—if he gets playing time.
Oh yeah, let's not forget about the man who is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Manuel Neuer.
The good news is that, like Bayern, Barcelona will rest many of their starters over the next few days, as La Liga is essentially wrapped up. Lionel Messi should rest for the next two Liga games, and he will certainly be 100 percent for the Bayern game. Bayern Munich have not seen an offense like Barça's all season long.
Another thing in Barça's favor is that Toni Kroos is out for six weeks due to a muscle tear. Holger Badstuber is also out with a knee injury.
But for me, what might turn out to be the biggest factor for FC Barcelona moving on to the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium will be the fact that the second leg will be played at the Camp Nou.
Last year, having the second leg at home did not turn out so well for Barça. But this year, we have seen a change in Barcelona's role at the Camp Nou: winning via the comeback.
We saw Barcelona having to be comeback kings early this Champions League season against Celtic FC, as well as Spartak Moscow.
Ask AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain if FC Barcelona are not capable of coming back at the Camp Nou this season.
Of course, Bayern Munich will be a tougher matchup than the previous teams mentioned. But Barcelona have defeated better squads than Bayern over past years in the Champions League, and Messi and company will be ready.
For the first time in many years, FC Barcelona come into the Champions League semifinals seemingly as the underdogs.
And you know what? I love it!
Perhaps this is what this Barcelona team needs: to be the underdogs for once. It'll give them extra motivation.
I believe in the magic of the Camp Nou this season. Last year was a disappointment—as Barça were expected to be in the final—but that was then. This season, Barcelona have had to fight and scrap their way to victories in the Champions League. No one can say they haven't earned their way to the semis.
Barcelona will have to continue to fight and scrap to get past Bayern Munich. But you know what, El Blaugrana is tougher than most people think.
FC Barcelona is the most mentally tough team left in the Champions League, period.
And I'll take mental toughness over physical toughness any day—especially at this stage of the tournament.
It will be a great semifinal.
The road to the UEFA Champions League Final for FC Barcelona will take them to Munich first, then head back to the Camp Nou.
Sit down. Buckle up.
We only have a few more stops to go before FC Barcelona makes their final destination of Wembley Stadium.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona.
Follow me on Twitter for continuous Barça news, live tweets of every game and your questions answered.
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