Two-Game Series Odds: FC Barcelona (-137) vs. Bayern Munich (+110)
FC Barcelona has been waiting for this moment for two years. The team was humiliated by Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semifinals in 2013; this year brings an opportunity for redemption.
The Spanish and German league leaders are set to square off in the semifinals of the Champions League with the first leg of their two-game aggregate goals series taking place on Wednesday, May 6, in Barcelona (2:45 PM Eastern) and the second leg following in Munich on Tuesday, May 12 (2:45 PM Eastern).
Barcelona saw their 2013 team get clobbered 7-0 on aggregate by the Bavarians. The result was more than a surprising considering that the Catalans were one of the best clubs in the world at the time.
Both squads have numerous players remaining from their 2013 sides, but both coaches are new. Two years ago, Jupp Heynckes led Bayern Munich and his team was an offensive juggernaut; now Pep Guardiola – the former Barcelona manager – is in charge and defense takes precedence (though Bayern can still score with the best of them, as well).
Bayern are currently on top of the Bundesliga by 12 points and have surrendered just 13 goals in 29 games.
Guardiola, who managed Barcelona for three seasons and brought tremendous success to the team, has nothing but praise for his former club heading into the semifinals.
“Naturally it is very special for many of us, Thiago [Alcantara], the staff… it’s Barcelona; it is my home,” Guardiola said. “They are a great team, as are we. We have to analyze what we can do in each game. I believe Barcelona is the best team in the world at the moment.”
For Barcelona, Jordi Roura was the interim coach at the time of the 7-0 drubbing. Now, first-year coach Luis Enrique is at the helm and has his talented squad firing on all cylinders after a comparatively slow start. Barcelona have taken over first-place in La Liga from Real Madrid, holding a slim two-point lead through 32 games.
Enrique realizes that facing Guardiola will make the semifinal series even more special for some of his players.
“It is a special game because Pep is there, for me, and for the players,” said Enrique. “It means a marvellous occasion for all Barca fans. When there is a draw like this, I always think that it’s bad luck that the team who have to play against Barca. There is always someone on the other side thinking that. In this case it is different … they are two clubs with the same aspirations.”
This will be the third time Barcelona and Bayern Munich face each other in a Champions League playoffs series. Each team has won once and, both times, advanced to win the title.
Bayern Munich played a poor first leg against Porto, but more than rebounded in the second to ease into the semifinals. The one bad game has the Bavarians situated as slight underdogs in what feels like a toss up. As a result, Bayern (+110) looks like the better play.
(Photo credit: André Zehetbauer (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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