A Look at Bayern Munich

Harold Cunningham

FC Barcelona's next opponents in the UEFA Champions League will be newly crowned Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich. The German team have been very impressive throughout the season and have lost only twice in this season's Champions League.

In their domestic league, the German side made history as they wrapped up the German league in record time leaving six games to spare and a 20 point difference between their nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund's manager, spoke highly of Jupp Heynckes' side and predicted more success "That's an incredible season Bayern have enjoyed, and it could yet become the most incredible one in the history of football."

In Europe, Bayern finished top of Group F on goal difference equalling points with Spanish side Valencia. The German side scored fifteen goals while conceding seven and have gone on to knockout Arsenal and Juventus in the latter stages of the competition. The team also rank second in UEFA's 2012-13 club coefficient table, the only team to rank higher than them being Barcelona.

Bayern reached last year's final which was played at their home ground, the Allianz Arena, but were defeated on penalties by Chelsea. Since the defeat in Munich, the side have developed and seem determined to right the wrongs of last season's disappointment and end Jupp Heynckes' Bayern career with European success.

The team have so far scored 22 goals in the Champions League and Thomas Müller is the club's top-scorer in this year's competition scoring five goals in the 782 minutes that he has played, giving him a goal to minute ratio of 1:157. Meanwhile Barcelona's top-scorer, Lionel Messi, has scored eight goals in 736 minutes giving him a ratio of 1:92 contributing towards Barcelona's combined total of 18 goals.

Bayern's goals have also come through a mixture of players, ten different players have all put the ball into the net this season giving top-scorer Müller a contribution percentage of 22%. Although Barcelona also have ten different goal scorers the stats show a strong reliance on Messi as he has contributed 44% of the team's goals.

In terms of passing it is no surprise to see Barcelona come out on top. If you were to compare the two clubs in terms of passes attempted, Barcelona occupy the top three spots with Xavi, Iniesta and Jordi Alba. Each player has attempted over 600 passes and has a pass success rate higher than 80%. Barcelona also occupy the top three spots in terms of pass success rate with Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Alex Song. Bayern's top-passer has been Philipp Lahm who has completed 508 passes in this year's competition.

On the defensive side of the team, Bayern Munich have so far kept three clean sheets which is surprisingly worse than Barcelona's record of four clean sheets. Manuel Neuer has conceded ten goals while Victor Valdés has also conceded ten goals. Neuer's worst number of goals conceded in a single Champions League game this season is three against FC Bate in the group stage. While Valdés has conceded two on three separate occasions, against Spartak Moscow, Celtic and Milan.

These defensive statistics go against a general consensus that this Barcelona side is weak defensively and that Bayern are the opposite. But it has to be stated that Barcelona will be without two centre-backs for the matches. Both Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano will be missing meaning Vilanova will have the choice of Alex Song, Busquets or Bartra to partner Gerard Piqué. Unlike the second leg of the PSG tie, Vilanova will not be able to rely on Adriano to plug the gap in central defence. Bayern too have injuries to deal with as Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber will not have recovered in time while Mario Mandzukic is Bayern's only suspended player for the first leg.

Both clubs have history in the competition and have both won four European cups each. Bayern's first three trophies came during 1974-1976 under Franz Beckenbauer before beating Valencia on penalties to win their fourth in 2001. Bayern's recent history in the competition has not been so successful reaching two finals before losing to José Mourinho's Inter and Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea respectively.

The previous encounter came in 2009 when Barcelona met Bayern in the quarter-finals and dominated from the outset as they went into half time of the first leg 4-0 up. Messi, Eto'o and Henry completed the scoring before Keita canceled out Ribéry's goal in the second leg.

This will be the seventh time the two sides will meet and Andoni Zubizarreta, Barcelona's director of sport who attended the draw in Nyon, commented on the fixture "...when I analyse Bayern's club, squad and history I can corroborate that they're a great club, but when I look at our own, I see the same. It's a challenge for us." While Bayern Munich's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated that Barcelona was "the benchmark for football in Europe." So key figures at both clubs are agreed this will be a close game. While bookmakers Sky Bet currently have Barcelona as slight favorites at 13/8.

And finally, perhaps one of the most interesting narratives to this game will be Pep Guardiola. The ex-Barcelona coach will take over from Jupp Heynckes at the end of the current season having left Barcelona after a successful managerial career which included two Champions League trophies. Although Guardiola, who was listed on Barcelona's website as one of the "10 Things to know about Bayern Munich", will not yet be in charge there will no doubt be anticipation to see how his new team fairs against his old one.

With the chance to play either Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid, Barcelona will be desperate to reach Wembley, a ground that has become sacred in the club's history.

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