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Barcelona have their work cut out against Bayern

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A threat throughout the team

FC Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to Friday’s match.

It’s not often that Barca go into a game as underdogs, and that feeling of wanting to put a few noses out of joint and shutting a few mouths is definitely there.

Speculation that Leo Messi is none too happy with the Blaugranes not being favourites to go through has seemingly motivated him even more than he might otherwise have been too.

Barca certainly do have their work cut out of course.

I’d suggest that of all of the teams left in the competition, Bayern are arguably the best equipped to go all the way.

Their threat is omnipresent and comes from anywhere, and that’s where Messi and Co. have to concentrate their efforts - right across the pitch.

FC Bayern Munich - Training Camp in Portugal Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images

Focusing solely on Robert Lewandowski will prove our undoing, in the same way as when teams only concern themselves with what Messi is up to during a 90 minutes.

Over 50 goals in all competitions is Ballon d’Or worthy, but the Bavarians are far from a one-man team.

Hansi Flick has shown himself to be a more than adept tactician too, mixing up his formations as he sees fit.

A rumoured 4-4-2 from Quique Setien is a departure. It would only be the third time the Cantabrian has chosen that formation, with Barca not scoring in the two other times it was used (Real Madrid 2-0 and Sevilla 0-0).

It will certainly hold no fears for a manager who has seen his team dominate domestically and in Europe throughout 2020.

With Barca having relied on the speed of Jordi Alba and to a lesser extent, Nelson Semedo, in order to carve out chances from the wide areas, what is Setien’s contingency plan for when the likes of Alphonso Davies - none too shabby from a standing start himself - put the after burners on?

We simply cannot afford to throw caution to the wind and play the ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ game of roulette, as Setien so often did at Betis.

This is one match where a defensive masterclass is required... and I do think we have it in us to do that as long as the stars align for us on the night.

Bayern aren’t used to being frustrated and if we’re able to keep the gaps between the two lines of four solid enough, Leon Goretzka, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry et al, aren’t going to have the room to create.

Boateng and Neuer are still Bayern’s Achilles heel but are not tested nearly enough. Play our cards right and it’s also within our capabilities to be able to do just that.

FC Barcelona v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Photo by Vladimir Rys Photography/Getty Images

Bayern, despite their dominance, do give other teams chances, and only five clean sheets in their last 12 games tells a story. The main issue remains keeping their front men at bay.

The other issue, as I see it, is Setien’s game management. His XI is always going to be subjective, some supporters will agree with it, others not.

Arguably we’ll need a bit of ‘zip’ in midfield, and it’s about time for Frenkie to have the game of his life in my opinion, similar to the master class that undid Real Madrid whilst he was still with Ajax.

But is this the game for Riqui Puig to be the conduit between midfield and attack?

Do we slap Setien on the back if he accedes to having the youngster start the match, or castigate him if we get brutally overrun?

The one thing most of us find unforgivable of course is if the match is crying out for a change of personnel, Setien rarely subs others on until it’s too late.

Make the goddam change. This isn’t a match for the coach to be a shrinking violet again.

We can do this.