In the UEFA Champions League draw held in Nyon, Switzerland on the 10th of July, Barcelona have been drawn to face German giants Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. But for that matchup to happen, both teams must first successfully navigate their Round of 16 second leg fixtures.
Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Napoli in the Sao Paolo stadium in their Round of 16 first leg clash in February before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on all sporting activity. The Catalan club will fancy getting the job done when Napoli visit Camp Nou for the return leg.
Bayern Munich almost have a foot in the quarterfinals after a commanding 3-0 win in their Round of 16 first leg fixture away at Chelsea. Barring an epic collapse in the concluding leg on home turf, the serial Bundesliga winners have an easier route to the quarterfinals compared to Barcelona.
The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg matches are scheduled to take place on the 7th and 8th of August. Home advantage will only be of academic interest for both Barcelona and Bayern Munich as they will play their Round of 16 second legs in front of empty stands.
Whatever the case may be, if both these heavyweights of European football can get past their respective Round of 16 fixtures, we are in for a mouth-watering quarterfinal clash.
The rivalry between Barcelona and Bayern Munich
One of the most interesting aspects of the rivalry between Barcelona and Bayern Munich is that it is a recent, twenty-first century phenomenon.
Since these two clubs belong to two different countries, Spain and Germany, their rivalry is mainly based on competing and consolidating their positions on the European stage.
In this respect, Bayern Munich have had the earlier success in Europe compared to Barcelona. The Bavarian giants’ first European Cup came in 1974, way before Barcelona’s maiden triumph in the competition in 1992.
Die Roten went on to win two more European Cups consecutively, meaning that from 1974 to 1976, they were the undisputed kings of Europe. However, in the 21st century, they have only won the competition twice, doing so in 2001 and 2013.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have been one of the most successful clubs in the 21st century, both in domestic competitions and in Europe. The Blaugrana won the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.
Both the clubs have won five European Cup / Champions League titles apiece. Last season, Liverpool pipped the duo by winning their sixth title in the competition.
Apart from last season's Champions League winners, only Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7) have been more successful in European club football's blue riband competition than Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
In this century, the Bayern Munich and Barcelona first locked horns in the quarterfinals of the 2008-09 Champions League season. Barcelona ran out 4-0 winners in the first leg at home, where Lionel Messi scored a brace.
The four-goal deficit was too steep for Bayern Munich to overhaul in the return leg as a 1-1 draw in Munich meant that Barcelona progressed to the semifinals with a commanding 5-1 aggregate win.
Barcelona then went on to qualify for the final on away goals after a controversial semifinal second leg away at Chelsea. In the final, they dethroned another English club, defending champions Manchester United.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona next locked horns in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2012-13. This time, it was the Bavarian side that came out trumps. Bayern Munich won the first leg 4-0 at home and triumphed 3-0 in the return leg at Camp Nou as Barcelona suffered one of their worst aggregate defeats in Europe.
More recently, Barcelona and Bayern Munich met in the 2014-15 semifinals, of the Champions League when the former Blaugrana manager Pep Guardiola was at the helm in Bavaria.
The tie produced arguably one of the greatest individual moments in UEFA Champions League history when Lionel Messi nutmegged Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng before a cheeky lobbed finish over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Barcelona won the first leg 3-0 at home before scoring twice in the return leg to cut short Bayern Munich's comeback. With a 5-2 aggregate win, the Catalan club exacted revenge for their humilation at the hands of the same opponents two seasons earlier to move into the final.
In their first Champions League final in four years, Barcelona overwhelmed Juventus 3-1 to win their fifth and latest title in the competition.
Rest assured, when Barcelona and Bayern Munich collide, classic footballing moments are produced.
In football, historical achievements mean next to nothing. Clubs such as Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United were once the powerhouses of English football. However, they struggle to acquire much television revenue today.
With the prize money in the competition getting bigger, the chasm between the successful clubs and others widens with every passing season.
For instance, last season, Champions League winners Liverpool were richer by €19 million for winning the competition. The amount won by Liverpool was €3.5 million more than t received by Real Madrid for winning the 2017-18 Champions League.
Moreover, clubs also receive additional money for winning every Champions League game in a season, in addition to pocketing money for TV rights depending on the country they hail from.
In 2019-20, if a club wins every game in the Champions League season (from group stage to final), it stands to receive €82.2 million. Interestingly, Bayern Munich are the only club in contention to win this amount if they go all the way this season. That is because, the Bavarian club won all their six group-stage games and also won their Round of 16 first-leg match against Chelsea.
Apart from the financial aspect, there is also the prestige issue at stake. Barcelona haven't won the Champions League since 2015 while Bayern Munich have had a longer drought; the Bavarians haven't triumphed in the competition since 2013.
For this season, the Champions League has a revamped single-legged format from the quarterfinal stage onwards. Both Bayern Munich and Barcelona may not get a better opportunity to etch their names in the competition's history books.
The form of the two clubs could not have been in more contrast ahead of a possible quarterfinal showdown.
Die Roten have had their usual, successful campaign in which they won their record 30th Bundesliga title. The Blaugrana, though, have had an underwhelming 2019-20 domestic season, an anomaly by their meteoric standards, and are almost out of the reckoning for a third consecutive La Liga title.
However, in a one-leg matchup, recent form may count for nothing. In this respect, both teams would have to start afresh if they complete wins in their respective Round of 16 ties.Published 14 Jul 2020, 23:19 IST