Barcelona and Bayern Munich lock horns on Friday night in the tie of the round for the Champions League quarter-finals and both sides have been busy stoking the fire.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich: Five key stats…
- Barcelona are competing in their 13th consecutive UCL quarter-final — a competition record.
- Bayern Munich are looking for a ninth consecutive UCL win — Barca were the last side to do this in 2014/15.
- Robert Lewandowski has averaged a UCL goal every 47 minutes this season, the best such single-campaign record in competition history (500+ minutes only).
- There have been at least three goals scored in six of the last seven meetings between these two teams.
- Since football return to Europe’s top five leagues, Lewandowski (14 goals, 3 assists) and Lionel Messi (7 goals, 9 assists) have been directly involved in more goals than any other players.
Stats courtesy of Opta.
After an initial early challenge from the likes of RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund, Bayern cruised to a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, finishing 13 points clear at the top in the end. The Bavarians have also won their last eight Champions League games and head into the quarter-finals as many people’s pick as favourites.
Barcelona, on the other hand, were unable to defend their La Liga crown, finishing five points adrift of fierce rivals Real Madrid. Despite that, midfielder Arturo Vidal still insists Bayern are facing “the best team in the world”, not just “any old team in the Bundesliga”.
“I understand the pessimism but we are the best team in the world,” Vidal said. “The problem is that we don’t always show it.”
The Chilean added: “Bayern will be confident but they must know that tomorrow they’re not playing any old team in the Bundesliga, they’re playing against Barca.
“We have Leo [Messi], we have the best players and we want to prove ourselves.”
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‘Lewandowski not at the level of Messi’
Messi weighed in with another 25 goals and 21 assists across 33 La Liga appearances. But in the Champions League, the Argentine has endured a season of relative struggle, grabbing three goals and three assists in seven appearances. Still impressive, but far below his usual output.
In the meantime, Lewandowski has been stealing the headlines having already netted 13 times in this season’s competition, averaging a goal every 47 minutes.
Even so, Vidal is not the only one to maintain that Messi is still the world’s best, with Barca manager Quique Setien insisting he remains on another level to the likes of Lewandowski.
“Lewandowski is a great player, but I think he is not at the level of Leo. I think that is clear,” said Setien.
“It’s true he is in a fantastic moment, it’s 13 goals in the Champions League and he’s well assisted by a lot of team-mates around him.
“But Leo’s in a great moment too as we saw against Napoli. It’s good these players are out there on the pitch and we can enjoy them.
“Leo Messi can help us win this game, of course, but I always believe in the strength of the team. You have to help Messi and give him the ball.
“It’s true he can make goals for himself but without the strength of the team, Leo would be less, just like any other player you can highlight.”
While Bayern manager Hansi Flick did concede that Messi is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, he did also try to remain more neutral than Setien or Vidal, insisting that he and Lewandowski are not to be compared while singing the praises of his star striker’s abilities in the penalty area.
“You can’t compare the two players,” said Flick. “Robert is absolutely world-class as a central striker. He has a lot of quality, especially in the penalty area, he guarantees goals and creates them too.
“Messi has been by far the best player (in the world) for many years. I don’t know whether there will be a player like him again.”
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