Millennium Post

Clash of giant killers

Bayern Munich face the litmus test in their bid to become the first German team to win the treble of European, league and cup titles when they host Spanish giants Barcelona in tomorrow’s Champions League semi-final, first-leg.

Having swept aside all rivals to win this season’s Bundesliga title, Bayern are bidding to reach their third Champions League final in four years, but Spanish champions-elect Barcelona block their path to Wembley.

Bayern warmed-up for the showdown at Munich’s Allianz Arena with a 6-1 win at Hanover 96 on Saturday, the same scoreline by which they routed Wolfsburg in last Wednesday’s German Cup semi-final.

Coach Jupp Heynckes dropped a hint by incorporating both strikers Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro into a 4-4-2 formation, rather than Bayern’s usual 4-2-3-1 line-up.

With first-choice forward Mario Mandzukic suspended, Gomez has staked a strong case to face Barcelona with a hat-trick in six minutes against Wolfsburg, then two goals in Hanover.

Likewise Pizarro set up both Gomez’s goals at Hanover while scoring two of his own, and with an eye on Barcelona the 34-year-old boldly declared: ‘We’re better, we have more quality in our squad’. ‘We are confident and we are assuming we will go through,’ said Bayern’s director of sport Matthias Sammer, as the Bavarians claimed three more Bundesliga records at Hanover.

But Barcelona will be a significant step up from what Bayern have faced recently in the German league. Barcelona travel to Munich in the unusual position of not being overwhelming favourites and midfielder Xavi said he expects a battle royal in Bavaria.

‘Tuesday will be brutal,’ said the 33-year-old Spain star. ‘Munich is a city which lives for football.’
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