May 06, 2015

    A meeting of old friends as Bayern take on Barca


    PEP Guardiola will return to Camp Nou with the away side for the first time today, as Barcelona's most successful coach takes Bayern Munich to the Catalan stronghold in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

    As a player, he was a key cog of the Barca side that won their first European Cup in 1992. As a coach, he led the club to 14 trophies - including two Champions Leagues titles - during a glorious four-year spell between 2008 and 2012.

    However, he now must find a way to outwit his former teammate and friend, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, and a host of his former charges who are in sensational form.

    Having won 26 of their last 28 games in all competitions, Barca are on course to repeat the historic treble of La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey which they won in Guardiola's first season in charge.

    "There is a good relationship there, because we've known each other for so long," said Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta. "We went through a lot together and, therefore, it will be nice and special for everyone."

    Revenge could be on Barca's minds, though, as they suffered their heaviest European defeat in a 7-0 aggregate thrashing by Bayern at this stage of the competition two years ago.

    Thomas Mueller certainly enjoyed the meeting two years ago, as he scored thrice over the two legs. The German World Cup winner is hoping those good memories will lift a Bayern side that have struggled for fitness and form in recent weeks.

    "It was a great experience, we played brilliantly back then and had the whole footballing world marvelling at us," he said. "I will certainly arrive at the stadium on Wednesday with a positive feeling."

    Bayern's top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, looks set to play with a protective face mask despite breaking his nose and cheekbone in last week's penalty shoot-out defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup semi-finals.

    The German champions will be without Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber through injury.

    In contrast, Barcelona are at full strength and in top form, having struck 16 goals without reply in their last two games.

    The stellar front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar registered 11 of those goals to take their tally for the season to 108, along with 50 assists.

    However, Mueller is confident that Guardiola's inside knowledge could give them the upper hand, saying: "The coach knows this team better than anyone else. He will give us the formula for success - the rest we'll have to do as players."