Champions League preview: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich
Perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the Champions League takes place on Friday, August 14 when the Spanish giants Barcelona take on the dominant Bayern Munich squad from the Bundesliga. These two clubs are some of the most recognizable in the world, and each have players on the bench that would start for nearly any other club in the world.
Fri, August 14 2020, 7:00 PM
The two clubs have combined to win four of the last eleven tournaments, but neither has won in the past four years. Barcelona got to the quarter-finals by defeating Napoli 4-2 on aggregate, in large part due to a twenty minute stretch where Lionel Messi took over the match in the first half of the second leg. Their defense looked shaky at times, as Napoli could have scored inside the first minute of the match to go ahead 2-1, but wasted a golden chance. Offensively, outside of Messi’s brilliance, there were question marks as to just how well they were playing.
The Bayern freight train continues to plow through everything in its path. Their latest victim was a Chelsea side that, albeit missing some key pieces, showed little more than token resistance as they fell 4-1 in the second leg, and 7-1 on aggregate. Robert Lewandowski fortified his already mind-blowing lead in the Golden Boot race, as he scored two goals in the match, and either scored or assisted all seven goals against the London club. The Bavarians have not lost a match since Jan. 11, and have won all but one of their last 24 matches, including 19 consecutive victories across all competitions.
Bayern’s depth and fluidity in attack is breathtaking to watch for the neutral, and given Barcelona’s defensive issues should allow for plenty of chances. However, the Bavarians showed some defensive weaknesses of their own against Chelsea in the second leg, when they had two goals against called out for offside and conceded many dangerous counter-attacks. Barcelona will be able to capitalize on those, especially with the way Messi is playing. Bayern defender Jerome Boateng may be having nightmares about Messi spinning him into the ground in the 2015 Champions League, turning him into an internet meme.
Both teams come into the matchup quite healthy, but there are a two players in particular who are in doubt, both of whom could play huge roles in the outcome. For Bayern, left back Alphonso Davies, arguably the fastest player in the sport, is questionable to participate in the match. He missed training this week with a thigh issue, but Bayern claim it was purely a precaution. If fit, he is expected to start to help combat Messi’s pace.
For the Catalan side, there is a possibility that winger Ousmane Dembele, who has been out with injury since November, could make his return as a substitute, per manager Quique Setien. He would instantly become their top addition off the bench, and could play a role in the latter stages of the match.
How you should bet
Neither of these teams have ever been the type to sit back and limit damage. This is what makes this matchup so exciting for fans of the sport. Bayern are the clear favorites, and should advance in the tournament, but anything can happen in a one-legged tie as we have seen this week.
A wise man once told me that Vegas makes more money on people betting that streaks will end, than any other type of bet. I don’t see Bayern’s streak ending, nor do I see the prolific Lewandowski being kept off the scoresheet. The problem is there is little value for him scoring (currently it sits at -165), so I rather suggest looking at the player prop market and banking on him to take more than three and a half shots, a number he has covered in nine of his last eleven matches. If you want some extra value, you can get five-to-one that he will score a header.
However, whenever Messi is on the pitch, you cannot rule out the Bavarians, and it’s almost certain he will find a way to contribute in this match as well. Messi presents solid value to find the scoresheet, and it’s almost certain that neither team will be kept off the scoresheet. Both of the prior two matches in the quarterfinals have ended with 2-1 score-lines, with three of the six goals being scored in the 88th minute or later. For those who enjoy live betting, this could provide some opportunity for great odds. Look for both sides to score, and for the match to be decided in regulation.
One last bit of advice: In the six Champions League matches over the past week, there have been six spot-kick goals scored—including one for each team in their last matches. At +150, that’s a trend worth betting on.