Tito Vilanova’s Nou Camp side will hope to pull off a minor miracle as they look to overcome a four goal deficit against visitors Bayern Munich.
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Bayern Munich are anticipating Barcelona’s bid to overturn their 4-0 deficit to be led by an inspired Lionel Messi rather than the subdued version that turned up in last week’s semi-final, first leg.
Bayern take on the Catalan giants at the Camp Nou in Wednesday’s Champions League second leg with one foot in the final after the drubbing meted out to Messi and his men in Munich.
World Footballer of the year Messi produced an uncharacteristic limp performance in Munich, but Bayern striker Thomas Mueller believes the Argentine star will be back to his brilliant best on Wednesday.
“In the first leg we barely saw him,” reflected Mueller, who scored twice and set up a third in the surprisingly lopsided first leg.
“That was down to us even if we know he was limited with an injury.
“We are going to see another Messi on Wednesday, even if we hope we don’t. I think we’ll have more work to do with him than the last time.
“Messi is a talisman for them. He’s a player who scores 50 goals in the season.”
The Germans, intent on atoning for last year’s final defeat on home turf to Chelsea, are mindful of letting any hint of complacency scupper their attempt to make it to the Wembley climax.
“We opened the door (to the final) but we haven’t gone through it yet,” cautioned midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger at the eve-of-match press conference on Tuesday.
“It’ll be hard on Wednesday, few teams can offer resistance to Barcelona here,” he added.
“We know they’ve got a lot of pride and we have to be concentrated as we were in the first leg.”
Mueller suggested Barca would try to upset their visitors “with their ball possession”.
“We’ve got to defend well, and leave the ball far away from our goalkeeper.”
As for last week’s surprise result, Mueller maintained that Barcelona had not played as poorly as the scoreline suggested.
“They didn’t play a catastrophic match,” he reasoned.
“We made the difference physically and mentally. We exploited the set pieces, and our size. And it was thanks to our good defensive work that Barca had few chances.”
Mueller added that if anyone was in any doubt as to Barcelona’s aptitude as escapologists then they only had to look back on what happened in the round of 16.
Barca looked down and out after losing the first leg 2-0 to AC Milan but ultimately sailed through to the quarter finals with a Messi-inspired 4-0 second leg success.
“I watched that match live. We know Barcelona can cause us harm if we don’t turn up. We also saw that Milan had a great opportunity but they weren’t able to capitalise on it.”
Barcelona admit any chance the Catalans have of overturning a 4-0 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final return on Wednesday depends very much on the fitness of Lionel Messi.
The World Player of the Year looked out of sorts in Munich last week as an energetic display from the hosts tore Barca to pieces, but Messi did come off the bench to score a wonderful individual goal and set-up a second for Alexis Sanchez in Barca’s 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
And Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura believes Messi has started to find his feet again after being troubled by a hamstring injury for the past month.
“Messi is the best player in the world and obviously when you don’t have him you notice it. He makes the difference,” he told a press conference after the Athletic game.
“He will continue with his recuperation after the injury. He was very good today and we hope that little by little he arrives at his best level. He will continue improving and the better Leo is the more chances we will have against Bayern.”
Despite Messi not being at 100%, Barca’s principal problem in the first-leg was their defending and manager Tito Vilanova has even more problems at the back with Jordi Alba suspended for Wednesday’s clash.
Adriano does return from suspension and is expected to replace Alba, however the biggest doubt remains who will partner Gerard Pique in central defence.
Javier Mascherano returned to light training on Monday well ahead of the schedule planned for him after suffering a lateral knee ligament injury against Paris Saint-Germain on April 2 and he could be thrown straight back into the side, although Vilanova also has the option of using either Eric Abidal or Alex Song.
Bayern by contrast will be able to welcome back striker Mario Mandzukic after he too missed the first-leg through suspension.
And despite their comfortable lead, manager Jupp Heynckes has said he won’t rest any of his six first-team regulars that could miss the final should they be booked at the Camp Nou.
Captain Philip Lahm, Dante, Javi Martinez, Luis Gustavo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez are all just one booking away from missing the showcase at Wembley should Bayern seal their passage into the final next month.
“I won’t be making any concessions,” Heynckes told the club’s website.
“I’ll select my best available team. The players will have to show great discipline, which means: no gestures, no unnecessary fouls, and they mustn’t let themselves be provoked. That’s the decisive factor.”
And having once experienced losing a tie after winning the first-leg 5-1 when manager of Borussia Monchengladbach against Real Madrid in 1985, Heynckes is determined not to make the same mistake again.
“We need the same attitude, willingness to run and good tactics,” he said.
“Barcelona are still the best team in the world. We know they’re capable of stunning results at home, and they’ve overturned deficits in the past. Their pride has been wounded and they’ll give it everything they’ve got. We’ll need a top performance.”
Both Dante and Jerome Boateng missed training on Monday but both are expected to line up in central defence as German international Toni Kroos remains Bayern’s only absentee through injury.