Champions League: Lionel Messi’s toughest task as Barcelona face up to Bayern Munich

Barcelona's Lionel Messi. File

Barcelona's Lionel Messi. File   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Lionel Messi might never have been faced with a more daunting task at Barcelona than engineering a victory against Bayern Munich here on Friday.

The only surviving former winners of European club football’s greatest prize — with five titles each — meet in a heavyweight Champions League quarterfinal behind closed doors at the Estadio da Luz.

It is not often that Messi’s Barcelona comes into such a big European tie as the underdog, but it has this time, with Quique Setien’s team having lost to Real Madrid in the Spanish title race while Bayern appeared flawless on the way to winning a German league and cup double.

Messi is now 33, yet Barcelona appears more reliant on him than ever.

One-man army

He scored twice against Bayern in the quarterfinals in 2009 when Barcelona went on to triumph under Pep Guardiola.

He hit four against Arsenal the following year and five against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012 but on both occasions, Barca was the favourite.

Messi also sank Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011 with a double in the first leg of the semifinal, including one of the finest goals the competition has ever seen.

Great comeback

And he was part of perhaps the tournament’s greatest comeback, the 6-1 destruction of Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 after Barcelona lost 4-0 in the first leg of that last-16 tie.

Yet this time threatens to be different.

With Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann alongside him, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets behind him, and Jordi Alba out wide, Messi should not be on his own.

Even in defence, Gerard Pique still has a claim to be the best defender in La Liga and Marc-Andre ter Stegen is among the most impressive goalkeepers in the world.

“Bayern are playing really well and are full of confidence but we have the weapons to beat them,” Griezmann told Barca TV.

Special effort

But the sense remains that Messi must perform if Barcelona is to defeat Bayern, widely seen as the favourite to lift the trophy on August 23.

It will take something very special not only to lift his own team out of the doldrums but also to neutralise an opponent that many believe is the most complete side in Europe.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 12:22:07 AM |

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