Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bayern up next as Barca dream of historic treble

No Spanish side has ever won the treble of league, Kings Cup and Champions League but Barcelona have it in their sights with German powerhouse Bayern Munich the next obstacle on Wednesday.

Barcelona start as favourites for the Champions League quarter-final match-up and hope to make home advantage count against a Jekyll and Hyde Bayern team.

Pep Guardiola’s side lead the Spanish league and face Athletic Bilbao in the Kings Cup final on May 13, meaning Europe is the final part of their treble bid.

Barca, semi-finalists last season and winners in 2006, have been unplayable at times this season with Lionel Messi, Xavi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry ripping sides apart at home and abroad.

Henry has won the English Premier League, FA Cup, European championships and World Cup leaving the Champions League as the only medal missing from his collection.

“I want to win the Champions League. It is a competition I am passionate about and I have never won it,” said Henry.

“Bayern are a tough team and have a lot of players that can make a difference in a game like Luca Toni or Bastian Schweinsteiger.”

Henry singled out French international team-mate Franck Ribery, who has been linked with a summer move to Barca, as the German giant’s danger man.

“Franck Ribery is Bayern’s Lionel Messi,” said Henry. “When there seems to be no space to move, Franck can still do things. With his talent he can hurt Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United or any team you care to mention.”

Ribery is a slight doubt with a foot problem and faces a race against time to be fit for the Camp Nou duel, as does Brazilian centre-half Lucio who picked up a thigh injury against Wolfsburg.

Bayern whacked Sporting Lisbon 12-1 on aggregate in the last round while free-scoring Barca beat Lyon 6-3 over two legs so goals are expected from two attack-minded sides.

German international Miroslav Klose is joint top-scorer in the competition with seven goals (along with Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard) while Barca’s Argentine Messi is on six.

Bayern beat Barca 2-1 at Camp Nou back in the 1999 group stage, but the venue also holds painful memories as that year in the dying minutes of the final, Manchester United grabbed two late goals to seal a famous 2-1 win.

Bayern were hammered 5-1 by domestic title rivals VfL Wolfsburg at the weekend to fall three points behind the league leaders.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants a reaction from his side but admits Munich begin the tie as underdogs.

“This defeat hurts, also in view of the game in Barcelona,” admitted Klinsmann.

“This is an opportunity to test ourselves against the best team in Europe at the moment,” he said.

For Bayern captain Marc van Bommel, 31, it is an emotional return to Barca and he may feel he has a point to prove after lasting just one unsuccessful season with the club.

Barca defeated Valladolid 1-0 to stay six points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish table and coach Guardiola called for a good turn out at Camp Nou – the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of around 98,700.

“We need a full house on Wednesday with not one empty seat,” said Guardiola. “We hope that the fans flock to the stadium to help us. We need them to back us now more than ever.”

Barca often struggle to fill their giant arena but their scintillating football this season has increased the numbers coming through the turnstiles.

The second leg of the quarter-final is in Munich on April 14 with the winner facing the victor of the Liverpool-Chelsea tie.



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