Between May 2013 and the beginning of December 2020, seven and a half years, Barcelona took a record 38 matches unbeaten at home in the Champions League and won 34, played a draw four and scored 112 times. Indomitable form.
Between December 2020 and the beginning of Tuesday’s Camp Nou meeting with Bayern Munich, a period of nine months, Barcelona’s home record in the Champions League: played two, lost two, scored once, conceded seven. Unacceptable.
– ESPN + guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (USA) – Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN + (US only) – Do not have ESPN? Get instant access
If you take the awful 7-1 overall scoreline in defeat to Juventus and PSG, and throw in that the last time Catalunja’s FCB met Bayern’s FCB, the Germans won 8-2-can you believe it was only a year ago? -you may be beginning to understand why it has been difficult to convince Barca’s season pass certificate “partners“to participate in what some fear can be another embarrassing defeat.
That humiliation against Hansi Flick’s team obviously had seismic consequences. Coach Quique Setien was fired and started his many-month journey to be financially compensated for what was left of his contract. Lionel Messi immediately sent a registered delivery note claiming that his contract allowed him to leave for free and that he had made the decision to leave Barcelona there and then.
The club, deep in a vicious spiral of debt, missed out on at least 30 million. EUR extra income by being knocked out of the competition in the quarter-final stage – that kind of sum Barcelona (just as humiliating) has had to beg back from senior players like Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. Oh, and Josep Maria Bartomeu, the quicksotic figure who may well be considered the worst president in Camp Nou history – but who will always be able to point out that the club had won the treble during his reign in 2015 – immediately pushed Luis Suarez walked out the door, a wise, well-judged move that resulted in the Uruguayans repaying him with 21 goals and three assists for Atletico Madrid as they only won their third LaLiga title in 44 years.
Bartomeu himself lasted only two more months as Barcelona’s president, but please: do not imagine that the fallout from the disastrous result marked the match in August 2020 as something special in the history of these two FCB clubs that stood head-to-head. In fact, there has literally been nothing but explosive, historic aftermath when Barca play Bayern.
When they met in the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-final, Barcelona lost 2-1 at the Camp Nou (4-3 overall) and Johan Cruyff was sacked as a result. Elimination from Bayern’s hands cost the most important man in the club’s history his job.
Twin defeat to Bayern in the worn-out Champions League Group D 1998-99 cost Barcelona the chance to reach the Champions League final, which was held at the Camp Nou to celebrate the Catalan club’s centenary. Talk about party shit. Manchester United were also in Group D, and together with Bayern he came to the Camp Nou show in May. We all know what happened then; it was hard for Barcelona’s players, management and fans to see.
Not enough proof that there is always a tinge of cordit and dynamite in the air when these two play?
In 2009, Barcelona beat Bayern 5-1 in the quarter-finals on their way to a Champions League victory in Rome and the treble. In 2013, Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern, on their way to the treble themselves, created Barcelona’s defeat, which was a record in Europe at the time, and won 7-0 over two matches to ruin the late Tito Vilanova’s only season in charge at Camp Nou. Two years later, this dramatic Barca-Bayern pendulum swung fully in the opposite direction as Luis Enrique’s Messi-Suarez-Neymar team smashed Pep Guardiola’s German champions 5-3 … on their way to the treble.
All of this, of course, leaves us with that thriller of 10 goals last August.
Before he even stopped, Bartomeus’ attempt to pull a once dominant football operation out of the catastrophic ruins after their record European defeat to Bayern had been to appoint Ronald Koeman, who did reasonably well in his first season. Nevertheless, you can only imagine the grimace and bone-shaking that passed through Barcelona’s representatives at this year’s Champions League group stage draw in Switzerland when the dreaded name “Bayern Munich” appeared. That would have been how sea-bound merchants used to feel when the oncoming ship raised a skull-and-sacrum.
During Koeman’s press conference on Monday, he admitted: “Revenge? We’re talking about the events of a year ago. There were players who really suffered that night. The memory of what happened is something we want to keep in mind. Maybe we can change the dynamic.
“We have to be strong and try to do damage to Bayern. I have a good team … good players.”
But unless you are an experienced Koeman listener, one of his phrases may have easily slipped past you. He said: “Physically we are in good shape. The players who were with their international team have had a chance to rest [Barcelona’s game in Sevilla at the weekend was postponed]. The others have trained really hard: the team is ready. “
Now you will not find many people who do not think Bayern are favorites to win at the Camp Nou and prolong the brutal injury that Juventus and PSG recently inflicted. And no wonder: the German champions have very few problems to worry about. They are a better constructed, more powerful, used to winning group, and they are not in this competition just to beat Barcelona again — rather, they are wildly determined to win it all.
Not long after these pages last met, I was able to interview Koeman, newly appointed Barca boss, to UEFA’s Champions magazine, and I asked the Dutchman what he had done (even as a spectator) of the eight-goal defeat. Back in September 2020, he told me, “The big lesson for me is that if you don’t play as a team, you don’t win.
“Of course you need the best organization to play against opponents like Bayern, because they are a really strong team with many individual qualities. But first of all, if you saw the physical condition of the Bayern team, it was excellent. And that way , they were organized on the team, were excellent. [That was a] big difference compared to Barcelona. “
Organizational and physical expertise. The keys to the game. In that case, Tuesday’s game could be a case of “give up hope all of you who come in here” as Barcelona rush up the stairs leading past a beautiful, quiet little chapel from the changing rooms to the pitch.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen has played once since May. Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest missed training the last few days, Gerard Pique is just back from injury, Pedri is just back from holiday, Martin Braithwaite is probably out of injury for three or four months and Philippe Coutinho (who randomly scored twice for Bayern in the 8-2 hammering while on loan from Barca to Bayern) has not played the full 90 minutes in almost a year. Then there is Luuk De Jong, an emergency last-minute signing as the summer transfer window closed has not played since an eight-minute Euro 2020 como for the Netherlands against Austria in June.
And this time there is no Messi, the man long known as Barca’s Savior.
History shows with crystal clarity that few, if any, matches have as much influence and consequence as when these two clubs meet. Three times before, the winner of this clash has won a treble. Even more often, defeat has shredded the loser’s career path. But the most important thing for Barca viewers to realize is that history is not what will weigh heaviest in terms of their chances of seeing a counter-odds victory at home – it is the state of the rather frayed and patched Camp Nou troop. Especially in relation to the brilliant, competent, aggressive, confident winning machine that is coming to town again.