Xavi Hernandez is preparing his biggest challenge yet when his Barcelona team faces Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena this week. The visitors are in a dangerous situation going into this game, with third-placed Benfica breathing down their necks.
Barcelona presently sit in second place in Group E of the UEFA Champions League, two points ahead of the Portuguese giants. The five-time Champions League winners, though, are in danger of missing out in the group stages for the first time in 20 years due to a poor head-to-head record against Benfica.
Barcelona have endured a difficult campaign so far and will need a victory against Bayern Munich to assure themselves a place in the Round of 16. The Blaugrana were stunned by Real Betis over the weekend and cannot afford another collapse in this fixture. Barcelona have managed to improve some aspects of their game under Xavi but have a mountain to climb this season. The Catalans reverted to their old habits in La Liga over the weekend as they cannot afford to slip up in one of the biggest games of their season so far.
Bayern completed an easy win in the reverse fixture when the Germans visited the Catalans at Camp Nou. Bayern dominated most of the attacking metrics in the game and did not allow Barcelona a single chance to get back into the game. Robert Lewandowski had the highest xG, as he usually does in most of his games. The Polish striker has scored nine goals so far in the season, and is the joint top-scorer with Sebastian Haller. Memphis Depay attempted the most dribbles for Barcelona, while Phillippe Coutinho attempted two shots on goal.
The above visual shows us the shot map for Barcelona in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou. Barcelona had a total of five attempts on goal and failed to keep a single shot on target. They were very wasteful with their passes in the final third and failed to create a significant threat on the opposition’s defense. They generated a very low xG of 0.26 as none of their shots were on target. The Catalans have only managed to score two goals in their five Champions League games and have conceded six. They will have to be more effective in the final third if they want to stand a chance of qualifying for the round of 16.
Bayern Munich, on the other hand, are at the top of the Bundesliga standings at the moment and have also topped their Champions League group. The Bavarian giants edged arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund to a crucial 3-2 victory in their previous game and are likely to rest some of their key players on Wednesday.
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 Kyiv 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 growing problems under Xavi are evident. Robert Lewandowski has scored nine goals so far in the season, and is the joint top-scorer with Sebastian Haller. Lewandowski has generated the highest overall xG so far of 6.450 and also has the most shots on goal.
Barcelona have a lot more riding on this game than Bayern. Barca’s chances of finding the back of the net will be aided by some expected changes in the home defense, but Nagelsmann’s team might very well send the Catalans to Europa League football this week.
Bayern Munich predicted starting lineup:
Neuer, Pavard, Sule, Nianzou, Richards, Roca, Tolisso, Sane, Muller, Musiala, Lewandowski.
Barcelona predicted starting lineup:
Ter Stegen, Dest, Araujo, Pique, Alba, Gonzalez, Busquets, De Jong, Dembele, Depay, Coutinho.