With the first day of the Audi Cup completed, I can gladly say that Barcelona’s pre-season schedule has mercifully moved onto a team I know well, the Bavarian giants, and our hosts, Bayern Munich.
With both teams triumphant by way of a penalty shoot-out, Barca and Bayern appear evenly matched, though I must say, of the two, Bayern look the better. While Barcelona were irresistible in the first half, the second half performance was lacklustre, and if Pinto plays any part, FC Hollywood will walk away the victors.
That being said, Barcelona will play the same way as always, attempting to monopolise possession, and press high up the field, but as we witnessed yesterday, Iniesta is paramount. Should he play 90 minutes, Bayern will struggle to see the ball, but if he is withdrawn at half-time, or if he doesn’t start at all, I fear for the Blaugrana’s chances.
Bayern possess a very strong side, and is stronger compared to the one that reached the Champions League final two years previous, with the notable exception of Ribery, who has an ankle injury. Neuer has been brought in to shore up a suspect defense, Gomez has hit top form, and Robben is 100% fit for the first time since that epic run in 2010. Rest assured this will not be an easy game.
In terms of team news, one can presume that nothing will have changed, as Puyol still looks like the bionic man, while Xavi is struggling with that troublesome Achilles, and Pique appears to have picked up a knock somewhere. All the South American contingent will join at various points during the club’s tour of the USA, so it’s the same guys that played yesterday.
In an ideal world, Guardiola will pick the strongest team possible, and utilise Sergio Busquets in midfield, but I will not hold my breath. Instead, Busquets will probably fall back into defense, with Keita in that holding role. Villa looked great in Croatia, but was near anonymous last night, and a vast improvement is needed, perhaps playing him in the same team as Iniesta could help, although, with Pep, who knows?
The performance in Split was promising, against Internacional it was bipolar, but tonight, it needs to be magical.
Match Prediction: As a Barca fan, and an Englishman, it pains me to say this, but Bayern on penalties.