Barcelona have one foot in the Champions League final after defeating German champions Bayern Munich 3-0 in the semi-final first leg of Europe’s elite competition at the Nou Camp.
Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola attempted to be brave against his old team, but in the end as so often Argentinian magician Lionel Messi was just unstoppable.
Bayern boss Pep Guardiola is a man who does not usually worry about the opposition’s tactics. However, he is a man that does like to try different tactics and tinker with his team.
Last night he attempted to be brave by putting his team man-to-man against the talented Catalan side for the first 20 minutes. It was a dangerous tactic considering it meant that his three central defenders were one-on-one with Europe’s most effective strike trio in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
The home side enjoyed playing against their German visitors and it was only the performance of Bayern ‘keeper Manuel Neuer that kept the scores level in the first period.
The change to a flat-back four 20 minutes into the game arguably gave Bayern a more solid look, but it could be argued it was not until the German side switched formation that they conceded the three goals.
The lethal threesome in the Barcelona attack have been deadly in front of goal in recent weeks and it seemed they would be frustrated by Guardiola and his charges, until the 77th minute and inevitably it was that man Messi who opened the scoring, with a low shot from the edge of the area.
It took just three further minutes for Messi to double his and his team’s tally for the night. This time he picked the ball up from Ivan Rakitic, sat Jerome Boateng down, before superbly dinking the ball over the outrushing Neuer.
Messi then proceeded to set-up fellow South American Neymar for the third goal in injury-time. Quite simply he was the world-class difference in the two teams.
The Argentinian continues his blow for blow goalscoring battle with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who the previous night scored his 76th Champions League goal. Messi went one better and now has 77 Champions League goals. No doubt both players’ tallies will increase before the campaign finishes.
Bayern boss Guardiola described Messi as ‘unstoppable’ prior to the game. The 44-year-old knows him well from their time together at the Nou Camp and knew it was going to be an uphill task for his team to stop the Argentinian from making the difference.
Pep tried his best with two different formations and it was quite incredible that the game was still goalless after 77 minutes. In the end though Messi’s magic was too much for the German giants. Watching performances like last nights you just run out of superlatives for the majestic Argentinian. Every time he gets the ball there is excitement and so often he is the man who inspires his team to victory.
Barcelona deserved their three goal lead, despite what Guardiola claimed after the match. Neuer kept Bayern in the game in the first half with some crucial saves. If Neymar had not scored the third goal then Bayern could have been more optimistic of claiming a victory over the two legs.
However, as it stands it will be difficult for Guardiola’s men to get back into this tie. A three goal win for Bayern is not impossible, but the worry for the Bavarians is how they stop Messi, Neymar and Suarez from scoring an away goal or two.
No doubt Guardiola will think he has some sort of master plan to make it to the final, but in truth Lionel Messi is the sort of player who rips up master plans and makes you eat them.
Guardiola is undoubtedly a great coach, but it seems that even he cannot find a way to stop the diminutive Barcelona star. If Bayern make it through to the Champions League final after that first leg deficit then it will be regarded as a major football miracle and a major tactical achievement by the Bayern boss.
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