Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich: Keys for Each Side in Champions League Semifinal
There will not be too many better matches in the world this year than when Barcelona faces Bayern Munich for the chance to play in the UEFA Champions League final.
While fans are looking forward to the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid in a potential finals matchup, this contest is the one that features the two biggest powerhouses of the year.
Barcelona has dominated La Liga this season and currently holds a 13-point lead for the top spot. Bayern Munich has been equally impressive, holding a 20-point lead over Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
Additionally, these two squads have already knocked off the current leaders in the French and Italian premier leagues in the quarterfinals of the UCL.
Who will advance to the UCL final?
These are two extremely talented clubs, but they will not be able to win unless they follow these keys to victory.
First Leg: April 23, at 2:45 p.m. ET; Allianz Arena; Munich, Germany
Second Leg: April 30, at 2:45 p.m. ET; Estadio Santiago Bernabéu; Madrid, Spain
Be Patient with Ball
One of the biggest strengths of this club is its ability to find open space on offense and fire shots at the net. Unfortunately, this strategy does not always pay off.
In last month's match against Arsenal, Bayern Munich took a total of 23 shots but ended up getting zero into the net.
The opposing goalkeeper, Victor Valdes, has been playing extremely well lately and will not allow too many easy goals. He is coming off consecutive clean sheets in league play and saved seven shots in a 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain.
He is also playing with more confidence after starting for Spain in the last two World Cup Qualifiers.
This means that the German squad is going to have to work for its scores in this one. Instead of taking a long chance, the players must look to their teammates who might have a better look at the net.
Goals should be at a premium in this one which means that Bayern Munich must take advantage of every opportunity and make sure it gets the best shot possible on every possession.
Put Pressure on Other Scorers
Anyone who follows the sport even a little bit will know that Barcelona's strategy on offense is to get the ball to Lionel Messi.
The Argentine striker has an incredible 43 goals in 27 league matches as well as eight goals in eight matches against Champions League opponents.
It is still unsure if he will suit up after missing time with a hamstring injury, although NDTV Sports reports that he is "fit to play."
If he is in the match, it will be up to the defense to prevent Messi from getting touches, especially around the box. This is easier said than done, but Bayern Munich has the ability to focus on the talented player by keeping its defenders back.
Obviously, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa, Pedro and others are more than capable of scoring goals if left open. However, they contribute at a much lower rate and are better when playing off of Messi.
If one of these players is forced to make plays to win the match, Bayern Munich will be in good shape to advance.
Win Possession Battle
This is usually Barcelona's strength, but it is even more important in this matchup.
While Bayern Munich is normally known for its defense, this year's squad has an incredible 89 goals in 30 league matches. In the last three matches, the club has scored 16 times.
Counting all competitions, the German powerhouse has eight players who have scored nine or more goals. By comparison, Barcelona has three.
If this squad is allowed to get chances on the offensive end, it could get ugly in a hurry.
However, Barcelona can help both the offense and the defense by holding onto the ball and making smart passes. The club can look for its key players and find the best opening to get a shot instead of just firing away.
Although it might be a smart move to be more aggressive in the opening match on the road, it will still be key to stay in control. The Catalans will lose if they are forced to play defensively throughout the match.
With some of the top midfielders in the world, this should not be a huge problem.
One other way that Barcelona can get in trouble on the defensive end is if the players commit unnecessary fouls.
Bayern Munich has a number of players who perform extremely well in set pieces, including forward Mario Mandzukic and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. If they are given an opportunity to either score or set up a shot, they will make you pay.
Barcelona has generally avoided this type of issue, but it has come into play at times this year and caused problems.
In the squad's most recent loss, Real Madrid came out with a 2-1 advantage despite controlling the ball for only 28 percent the match. The difference was 19 fouls called against Barcelona to give the squad plenty of extra opportunities to score.
As previously mentioned, Valdes has been played extremely well recently in net. Still, he will not be able to succeed if he is under pressure repeatedly throughout the match.
Instead, Barcelona has to keep control of the ball and play smart defense without drawing a whistle when the opponent tries to attack.
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