Barca battle Bayern for place in knockout stage

Still yet to be assured of a place in the Champions League knockout rounds, Barcelona face a mammoth task at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich in today’s final Group E clash.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side are already guaranteed to finish first, while La Blaugrana are in a two-way fight with Benfica for second place.

As widely expected, the Champions’ League group stage has been a walk in the park for Bayern Munich, who have strolled to five wins from five to ease into the last-16 as one of three teams – alongside Liverpool and Ajax – currently boasting a perfect group record.

Nagelsmann’s men were made to work for their victory over Dynamo Kiev on the penultimate matchday, but ultimately got over the line thanks to strikes from Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski, whose goals once again proved invaluable in Der Klassiker at the weekend.

Jude Bellingham’s post-match attack on referee Felix Zwayer made all the headlines, as a potential penalty for Borussia Dortmund was waved away while Lewandowski tucked home a controversially-awarded spot kick to sink his former club in a 3-2 success.

No team in the 2021-22 Champions League has scored more goals than Bayern’s 19 in the group stages, with the German champions scoring at least two per game and hitting both Dynamo Kiev and Benfica for five at the Allianz Arena already.

Nagelsmann’s side have not been without their faults this season, but they have won eight of their nine home games in all tournaments since the season kicked off, and Barcelona’s teething issues under Xavi are apparent.

A pair of 1-0 victories over Dynamo Kiev is hardly anything to shout about for a club of Barcelona’s calibre, especially seeing as they failed to confirm their second-placed finish in Group E after being held to a goalless stalemate by Benfica on matchday five.

La Blaugrana sit two points above their Portuguese counterparts in second spot, but they have a worse head-to-head record and Benfica will certainly be confident of beating Dynamo Kiev, so Xavi’s side are at an alarming large risk of settling for Europa League football.

The Catalan club do not exactly travel to Munich high on confidence either, as Real Betis’ Juanmi condemned Xavi to the first defeat of his reign as Barcelona manager at the weekend – ending Barca’s six-game unbeaten run across all competitions in the process.

A paltry tally of three wins from their last nine in all tournaments represents a true fall from grace for Barcelona, but they ought to take confidence from their away form in Europe – losing just one of their last 10 Champions League games on the road.

Such a streak may pale into insignificance against a well-oiled Bayern machine, though, with the German champions running riot in a 3-0 Camp Nou win earlier this season – Barca’s fifth defeat from their last six games versus the Bavarian powerhouses.

Bayern’s squad has been ravaged by coronavirus in recent weeks, and as such Joshua Kimmich, Michael Cuisance and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are all at risk of missing out again.

As for Barcelona, Ansu Fati has reportedly lost his battle to be passed fit for today’s game, with Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Aguero, Pedri and Sergi Roberto also on the sidelines for the visitors. – SportsMole

Today’s fixtures

Zenit       v Chelsea

Juventus   v Maimo

Benfica     v D. Kyiv

Atalanta    v Villarreal

Wolfsburg   v Lille

RB Salzburg v Sevilla

Man United  v Young Boys

Bayern      v Barcelona

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