Will it be Germany's year this time?

Published : Apr 27, 2013 00:00 IST

Experience is in greater demand than pure ability at the business end of the tournament as the Spanish outfits take on their German adversaries for a place in the final. By Priyansh.

The battle inside Pep Guardiola promises to reach a fever pitch by the time FC Barcelona enters the Allianz Arena on April 23. With the Catalan giant drawn to play Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, the face-off between the Spaniard’s past and future employers may evoke mixed feelings inside his brilliant footballing brain.

If he had already become the German side’s manager, the choice would have been as easy as gulping down a glass of water. As a neutral though, Pep finds himself in an unenviable position where the Bayern manager, Jupp Heynckes, could approach him for some secret advice.

Heynckes, however, was repulsed by the idea when suggested of it. “Please respect me and my work. I’ve never consulted anyone or asked for advice. I do not need anyone to study an opponent,” he said.

Bayern Munich’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and sport director Matthias Sammer made similar noises.

Not surprisingly, domestic rival Borussia Dortmund’s manager Jurgen Klopp disagreed. “I’ll bet my life Bayern will call Pep,” he said, albeit in a lighter vein.

Even if the Spaniard isn’t consulted, Bayern will go into the semi-final feeling strongly optimistic about its chances. In the quarterfinals against Juventus, the German side arguably played its best football of the tournament to register a 4-0 victory over two legs.

Bayern, as manifested by its joyful romp towards the Bundesliga title this season, produced refined football to blunt the challenge of an Antonio Conte team that has struggled to replicate its domestic performances on the continental stage.

While the home leg was won by immaculate pressing and pace in high areas, the last season’s runner-up displayed remarkable maturity to slow down the game in Turin by retaining possession.

The stats do not lie; Bayern enjoyed 57% of ball possession in the second leg.

Barcelona, renowned for its ability to dominate possession, would present a strikingly different and difficult challenge to the German outfit.

Tito Vilanova’s men, however, were not particularly impressive against Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals and only progressed to the last four thanks to the contested away goals rule.

Stricken by ‘Messidependencia’, Barca struggled without the services of the Argentine after he picked up an injury in the opening period of the first leg. When Messi left the field, his team was 1-0 up. PSG later roared back to draw 2-2, although due to a controversial last minute equaliser.

The playmaker did not start the return leg at Camp Nou and Carlo Ancelotti’s side took a shocking lead early in the second half. However, with questions over his match fitness looming large, Messi came on to play a vital role in Pedro’s equaliser to lead Barca to a record sixth consecutive semi-final.

Two of Barcelona’s four European Cup triumphs came at Wembley, the venue of this season’s final. It defeated Bayern 5-1 the last time they met in the 2008-09 quarterfinal.

The German side has developed much since, and is probably a tougher opponent for Barca when compared with the other two teams in the draw.

Real Madrid, though, would baulk at that suggestion. Having qualified for his third successive last-four Champions League contest, Jose Mourinho is a man who strongly believes in his team’s potential to claim the title.

Real will be a slight favourite for its semi-final against Dortmund but it would be a mistake to read too much into this assumption.

The two sides have already met this season in the group stage, where the German outfit upstaged its Spanish opponent by winning at home and drawing away.

Mourinho’s men have impressed in spurts until now and are still looking for their headline performance of the season. Manchester United seemed to have their measure for a significant period in the second leg of their round of 16 tie while Galatasaray, with an attack-minded approach, gave Real a fright in the quarters.

Unfortunately for the Turkish club, it had already collapsed to a 0-3 reverse at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, chinks in Real’s armour persist and they were exploited when it met Dortmund earlier. After being eliminated in the group round last season, Klopp’s side has been the story of the tournament thus far. With astute playmakers in Mario Gotze and Marco Reus and pacy wide men as Kevin Grosskreutz and Jakub Blaszczykowski, Dortmund has merged German attributes with continental qualities to achieve wonderful results.

Luck, that most faithful of companions of an underdog, has not deserted the team either, as witnessed in its thrilling quarterfinal victory over Malaga when Dortmund scored twice in the injury-time to overcome a 1-2 deficit at home.

Experience, however, is in greater demand at the business end of a tournament than pure ability. Real would certainly hope to drive home the advantage of its experienced stars and illustrious history.

The fans of Dortmund and Bayern, though, would do well to mention this interesting stat: In this season’s Champions League, German teams have won thrice and drawn the other three fixtures against Spanish outfits. This could be Germany’s year.

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