It's a rarity for the mighty FC Barcelona to enter a Champions League quarterfinal as rank underdogs but that is their reality ahead of Friday's clash with Bayern Munich.
We've got numerous reasons to believe that there will be no upset with Bayern setting sail for the semifinals. Here are five.
🤖 Robert Lewandowski
Bayern's Polish goal-machine has taken his game to another level in 2020, scoring 53 times in 44 competitive outings across all competitions this season. He's bagged 13 in the Champions League alone and will be eagerly hunting down Cristiano Ronaldo's single-season record tally of 17 which the Portuguese legend achieved back in the 2013-14 campaign.
📈 Winning is a habit for Bayern
Bayern arrives in Portugal on the back of a scintillating run of results. They've won 26 of their last 27 matches scoring 86 goals (3.3 per match) and conceding just 20 (0.8 per game) with 12 clean sheets included in that astonishing sequence. The only match they didn't win was a 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig, the only team to stop Bayern from scoring in 2020. A string of 18 consecutive wins in all competitions makes Bayern Munich THE hottest team in Europe right now.
☄️ Pace, power & balance in defence
Starting at the very back and moving through the spine of the team, Bayern oozes quality and class. Manuel Neuer has been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt numerous times at this level and his experience between the sticks is vital. The 34-year-old claimed 15 clean sheets in the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, despite the Bavarian side keeping just two clean sheets in their first 11 league outings under Niko Kovac.
The defensive improvement under Hansi Flick is obvious. Centre-back pairing Jérôme Boateng and David Alaba are both smart, tactically-astute operators while young fullbacks Benjamin Pavard and the explosive Canadian Alphonso Davies have gotten forward to great effect. French World Cup winner Pavard is likely to miss out with an injury but Joshua Kimmich will deputise and he's hardly a downgrade on the right flank.
FACT: Teenager Alphonso Davies recorded the fastest speed ever documented in the German top-flight when he clocked 22.7mph on the day that Bayern wrapped up the title.
🥽 Thomas Müller is a new man
Only a fool would have written off the Germany legend ahead of 2019-20 but there were worrying signs that he was slowing down. Hansi Flick has rejuvenated the charismatic star and he's now the major creative force for Bayern; the 30-year-old notched 21 assists in the Bundesliga in 2019-20, an all-time record figure, and that's cause for concern as Barcelona's defensive midfielders prepare themselves for a long night of chasing shadows. Serge Gnabry scored 12 goals & provided 10 assists in the Bundesliga and he's bagged six goals from six starts in the Champions League this season. Everywhere you look in this Bayern team there are goal-threats and Thomas Muller has eyes in the back of his head, ruthlessly searching for the killer pass.
🇩🇪 Hansi Flick has restored Bayern's identity
Under Flick, Bayern's turnaround has been sensational with 30 wins from 33 matches in a sequence that has featured 104 goals scored and just 24 conceded. Established stars like Thomas Müller and Thiago Alcantara are back to their best, 19-year-old Alphonso Davies as emerged as one of the finest fullbacks on the planet and Joshua Kimmich has developed into a truly world-class operator capable of filling numerous positions.
“Hansi has brought togetherness to the team, and has us playing the Bayern way again,” said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after Flick secured the club’s 13th domestic double with the DFB Cup final win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Benfica's Estádio da Luz is the venue for Friday night's heavyweight clash and there doesn't appear to be much light at the end of this particular tunnel for Quique Setien's Barcelona.
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