A place in the final four of the Champions League is on the line when Barcelona and Bayern Munich meet in the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Friday (3pm ET).
Both clubs habitually advance to the closing stages. Bayern have made the semi-finals or better in six of the last eight seasons. Barca have only made the semis once in the last five, but you have to go back to 2007 to find the last time they failed to make the last eight.
In fact, they are the only two teams still left in the competition who have previously lifted the trophy. Both have won it five times: Bayern last in 2013 and Barcelona, two years later in 2015. Yet neither made it through to the final four last season. A place there is now at stake.
The remaining second legs of the round-of-16 ties were played out last week and the final eight teams have now come together in Lisbon to contest the decisive stages of the COVID-delayed competition. Instead of the usual two-legged format, every round from now on out will be played on a one-off basis, with extra-time and penalties if they are not decided within 90 minutes.
Bayern Munich were already 3-0 up from the first leg of their last 16 tie with Chelsea and had no problems finishing things off in the return on home soil. A Robert Lewandowski penalty and a further strike from Ivan Perisic had them two up within the opening 25 minutes. Chelsea got one back before half-time, only for Corentin Tolisso and Lewandowski to add further goals in the second half.
The performance and result continued Bayern’s excellent form this calendar year. They won nine on the bounce following the resumption of Bundesliga action in May to seal an eighth consecutive domestic title and followed that with victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the final of the German Cup. They have won each of their last 18 matches in all competitions and have won 26 and drawn one of their last 27. They last lost in December.
After a slow start to the season under Niko Kovac, Bayern swiftly found their feet under Hans Flick, and have since played some superb and highly effective football. Most trustworthy bookmakers have them as second favorites behind Manchester City to win the competition, and victory on Saturday would most likely (presuming City see off Lyon) set up an all-star semi-final between them.
Barcelona stand in the way. They didn’t carry a comfortable advantage into the second leg of their last 16 encounter with Napoli but were nevertheless able to progress thanks to a Clement Lenglet header, a moment of magic from Lionel Messi and a penalty from Luis Suarez, all before half-time. Napoli did get one back early second half, but Barcelona were able to see the game out to go through 4-2 on aggregate.
Quique Setien’s side had a few struggles in La Liga following its restart in June, losing out to Real Madrid in the title race despite holding a point advantage when things got back underway. Their reliance on Messi seemed to have increased further, and despite good underlying numbers, results didn’t follow. While Napoli weren’t really able to trouble them, Bayern are a class above and certainly have the ability to do so.
Any team that counts Messi amongst its number cannot be easily discounted. He was the difference maker when the two sides last met in the 2015 semi-finals, famously putting Jerome Boateng on his backside before scoring one of his two goals in Barcelona’s 3-0 first-leg victory. That Messi had Neymar, Andres Iniesta and younger versions of Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets alongside him.
Modern-day Messi can’t call on quite such an impressive supporting cast. Even though the one-match format will amplify the effect of any good or bad fortune, one way or the other, Bayern are in much the better shape coming into this encounter and are the more likely team to progress to the final four. So these are USAbetting’s Barcelona vs Bayern Munich predictions and betting picks for this UCL match preview: