Tonight sees Pep Guardiola return to the Nou Camp for the first time, as his Bayern Munich side face Barcelona in the 1st leg of this Champions League Semi Final tie.
Guardiola won a stunning 14 titles during his time in charge of the Catalan giants, turning them into one of the greatest and most successful teams of all-time. This adds extra drama and spice into what is already shaping up to be a fascinating encounter between these two dominant forces in European football.
Barcelona have been in remarkable form of late and have their eyes set on what would be a historic treble this season. Messi and co have been the most convincing side in the competition so far, comfortably seeing off both Manchester City and PSG whilst playing with a swagger and confidence which makes them a joy to watch.
Barca’s front 3 of Neymar, Messi and Suarez have been making all the headlines with a jaw dropping 108 goals between them in all competitions, but it will have to be a strong performance from the entire team to see off a tough Bayern side that are already Bundesliga Champions and in fine form themselves.
Bayern Munich overcame their first leg 3-1 defeat to Porto in the previous round in ruthless fashion, going on to win the second leg a thumping 6-1 to advance. They put 7 past Shakhtar in the second leg of the previous round, but Lewandoski, who has 23 goals this season, fractured his cheek-bone and nose in their semi-final defeat to rivals Borussia Dortmund last Tuesday.
Despite this, Lewandoski hopes to play with a protective mask and they will need his goalscoring ability against a free flowing Barcelona side with plenty of goals in them.
History tells us this is never a dull fixture, and it has been the visiting side that have taken all the glory more often than not in recent times. Barcelona have managed just 1 win in 8 against Bayern Munich, and this poor stretch of games includes their heaviest ever European defeat in the same stage just 2 years ago, where Bayern Munich sent them to a crushing 7-0 aggregate loss (3-0 at the Nou Camp).
Barcelona will have this in the back of their minds no doubt tonight, plus the opportunity to get a victory at the expense of their former boss should add plenty of incentive. Guardiola will see tonight as a great way to remind his former club of his talents, and Munich will be galvanised by their impressive form over their hosts in recent years.
Both teams will feel that they are favourites to lift the trophy at the end, but there is also plenty more at stake when these 2 teams clash in what should be a brilliant evening of Champions League football.
Barcelona are without Jeremy Mathieu who is suffering from an Achilles tendon injury. This is Luis Enrique’s only selection problem however, with Munir available for selection after returning to training this week.
As mentioned, Lewandoski flew with the squad and is expected to play with a protective mask. Ribery, Arjen Robben, Holger Badstuber and David Alaba are all unavailable however, creating a few selection problems for Guardiola in his return to the Nou Camp.