Antic: Bayern worst possible draw for Barcelona

The former Blaugrana boss has serious concerns over the Catalans’ defence, fearing it could be completely pulled apart by “the form team” in Europe

Radomir Antic believes that Bayern Munich were the worst possible draw for Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Bavarians have blazed into the final four, dispatching Italian champions Juventus with impressive ease to set up a mouth-watering clash with a side bidding for their third European Cup in five seasons.

Barca are currently running away with La Liga but former Blaugrana boss Antic feels that Tito Vilanova’s men will struggle against the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions.

“Bayern Munich were the toughest team in the draw,” the Serb told SPORT. “They are the form team. They are the worst possible opponents Barca could have been asked to play.”

The cause of Antic’s concern is the Catalans’ porous defence. Indeed, the 64-year-old feels it imperative that Barca get skipper Carles Puyol fully fit for the semis if they are to have any hope of making it to the Wembley final.

“Puyol is not only the captain,” Antic argued. “He is a player that conveys so many things to his team-mates on the field.”

Barcelona will travel to Bavaria for the first leg on April 23 before welcoming Bayern to Camp Nou the following week.

Fit or unfit, Messi doesn't hold the key for Barcelona-Bayern

The Argentine came on to change the game for the Blaugrana against Paris Saint-Germain, but the Bavarians are good enough to ask their own questions of the Spanish giants

By Kris Voakes

Barcelona’s away-goals triumph over Paris Saint-Germain reiterated one thing we already knew and another many of us had begun to suspect some time ago.

Lionel Messi’s return as a substitute and the impact he immediately had on the game was a reminder that he remains by some distance the best player in the world, but the 62 minutes which preceded his introduction were a clear signal that the Blaugrana can be rather fallible without their magical No.10 to turn to.

So when Bayern Munich were paired with the Catalan giants in Friday’s Champions League semi-final draw in Nyon, the news will have been greeted by fans and staff alike with cautious optimism. Yes, they are coming up against the planet’s greatest player, but they are also set to face a team that is increasingly becoming one-dimensional. And, whether Messi is fit or not come April 23, Bayern are really the masters of their own destiny.

While the gameplan of passing the ball to Messi and seeing what he can do with it is probably one of the most effective weapons any team has, there appear far fewer alternatives available to Tito Vilanova than was once the case. No longer do they look quite the dominant force they did. Even with Xavi passing at a 100 per cent success rate on Wednesday, PSG looked to have Barca’s number until Messi arrived on the field.

Add in the fact that they looked a shadow of themselves when AC Milan used an umbrella marking policy to quell the threat of Messi in the first leg of their last-16 clash and doubts begin to creep in about the four-time European champions’ effectiveness. The Rossoneri enjoyed only 34 per cent of possession at San Siro, but their clever tactical approach allowed them to get in more shots at goal than Barca and eventually secure a 2-0 win.

Had PSG shown as much thirst for ramming home their advantage after the Argentine arrived on the Camp Nou field on Wednesday as they had before his introduction, then it may have been a Franco-German clash we were looking forward to in the last four. But their instinct was to panic at the sight of the substitution board with a number 10 in green lights.

On the other hand, Bayern are the most destructive unit in football right now. With a forward line which offers pace, power, finesse and flair – and a midfield department performing as well as any in the world – they are arguably the team to beat out of the last four.

And while the Bavarians may well not have the most reliable defence, they have enough talent to make amends for that, as exemplified by a magnificent record for goals conceded this term. They have also been second only to Barca in terms of successful ball retention this term and, unlike the Blaugrana, they have many different avenues for creating opportunities. Taking that into account, one suspects that if they can hold onto the ball for long spells and use their pace out wide to great effect, then die Roten can effectively neuter Messi by forcing Barca to begin attacks from unfamiliar deeper areas.

Messi batters Bayern | But the 2013 version of the Bavarians have more in their armoury

The newly-crowned Bundesliga champions showed against Juventus that they can knock a team built on the foundations of ball retention in opposition territory out of their stride with their pressing game and excellent attacking unit. They proved by making a passenger out of Andrea Pirlo that they can turn the threat of a midfield pass-master into an opportunity to regain quick possession and strike from high areas.

And there is no real evidence to suggest that they cannot do the same to Barcelona. Some Germans got excitable about Bayern’s chances the last time these two teams met in 2009, only to see a Messi-inspired destruction at Camp Nou, but this time is very different. Jurgen Klinsmann’s pretenders these Bayern players are not. Instead, Jupp Heynckes has put together a far more influential unit that looks as ready as anyone to bring down the Blaugrana.

We have already seen that Barca’s defence can be weak when put under pressure. We have witnessed how they lack creative ideas for breaking down resolute units when Messi is taken out of the equation. There has been more than enough evidence of an eroding around the edges of that mystique that they built up over a five-year period. Just because they have sidestepped a couple of obstacles and remain in the competition, it doesn’t mean they are destined to win it again.

It all depends on Bayern. Messi can be the key if they allow him to be but, if FC Hollywood play to their own strengths and carry out to the letter the kind of plans that have already worked for them this season, then the world’s best player may not even get a look-in.

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Beckenbauer: Dortmund would have been easier than Barcelona

The former West Germany international feels the Bavarians would have had a better chance of reaching Wembley if they had been paired with their Bundesliga rivals

Franz Beckenbauer has admitted that he would have rather Bayern Munich had drawn Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the Champions League than Barcelona, “the world’s best club side”.

The Bavarians are the form side in Europe at the moment, having wrapped up their domestic title last weekend before completing a 4-0 aggregate demolition of Italian champions Juventus in Turin on Wednesday night.

However, Beckenbauer freely admits that he would have preferred to see Jupp Heynckes’ men avoid Barca in Friday’s draw for the final four of the Champions League, which has thrown up the possibility of an all-Germain tournament decider at Wembley with Dortmund having been paired with Real Madrid.

“My first reaction was from a Bayern perspective, that this was not a ‘dream draw’,” he told Bild. “I would have viewed Dortmund as an easier opponent than Barcelona, the world’s best club team.

“But my second reaction was: these are two super draws for German football.”

Beckenbauer, though, believes that both Bundesliga representatives will find it tough against La Liga’s top two, even though Bayern were the most impressive performers in the quarter-finals.

“Our team has an incredible stability,” the legendary sweeper acknowledged. “We have a very good chance because of the form that we are in.

“But there is [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, who were born [to play] for one another.”

Indeed, so wary is Beckenbauer of the threat posed by Barca’s ‘holy trinity’ that he would consider enlisting the help of former Blaugrana boss Pep Guardiola, who is set to succeed Jupp Heynckes as Bayern boss this summer.

“He knows the characteristics of the Barca players, the characteristics which are not seen in videos,” the ex-West Germany international reasoned.

As for Dortmund, Beckenbauer feels it would be a mistake to read too much into the fact that Jurgen Klopp’s troops took four points from their two meetings with Madrid in the group stages and that it will count for little in their semi-final tie.

However, he does feel that the recently dethroned Bundesliga champions will have been lifted by the dramatic way in which they saw off Malaga in the last eight.

“Dortmund against Real Madrid is the battle between the two national runner-up,” the 67-year-old mused. “Such a crazy comeback against Malaga will have given the team a boost.

“But even though they were twice the better team against Real in the group stage, they should not rely on that.

“[Cristiano] Ronaldo is having an outstanding Champions League this season and has a perfect partner in [Mesut] Ozil.”

Both semi-final first legs will be staged in Germany, with Bayern hosting Barcelona on April 23 and Dortmund welcoming Madrid to Signal Iduna Park the following night.

Sammer will speak with Guardiola, claims Klopp

The Borussia Dortmund boss believes his side’s arch-rivals will tap into the knowledge of their future coach in their bid for European success

Jurgen Klopp is convinced Bayern Munich president Matthias Sammer will seek the wisdom of Pep Guardiola after the Bavarians were drawn against Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Borussia Dortmund have been handed a Spanish test of their very own after being paired with Real Madrid in the last four of the competition.

But with Guardiola set to take over from Jupp Heynckes at the Allianz Arena during the summer, Klopp gave his thoughts on the test facing FCB and is adamant Sammer will look to use any advantage possible to advance to the final at Wembley in May.

“I would bet my life that Sammer and Guardiola will talk very well. But it does not matter because Guardiola cannot play on the pitch,” Klopp told reporters after the draw.

And after an intense week of pre-draw speculation, Klopp admitted he was glad the suspense was finally over.

“I am delighted it is now clear who we will meet, now football can be played!” he continued.

BVB president Michael Zorc believes his side will still go into the clash with Madrid as underdogs – despite defeating the reigning Liga champions in the group stages of the competition.

It’s a good draw, both pairings are optimal for European football. We will be slight underdogs, but we have already beaten them this season,” he told the club’s official website.

“We earned a lot of respect from those two games and the only shame is we don’t play away from home first.”

Effenberg: Mourinho has great respect for Borussia Dortmund

The former Germany midfielder has spoken to the coach recently, with the Portuguese revealing his admiration for the dethroned Bundesliga champions

Stefan Effenberg says Jose Mourinho has told him he has “great respect” for Borussia Dortmund, after Real Madrid were drawn with the German club in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The two sides faced one another in the group stages of the competition, with BVB taking four points off the reigning Liga champions, following a 2-1 win at Signal Iduna Park and 2-2 draw away at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Since then both sides have been cut adrift in their respective leagues, with Dortmund dethroned as champions by Bayern Munich and Madrid set to surrender their crown to Barcelona, despite an improved run of form in the second half the season.

And with the two clubs set to do battle again on the back of Friday’s Champions League draw in Switzerland, Effenberg revealed Mourinho’s admiration for his European opponents.

“I spoke to Mourinho a few weeks back,” the former Germany midfielder told Sky Sports News.

“He told me that he has great respect for Dortmund. Dortmund have nothing to lose and if have already achieved an awful lot. If they beat Real that would be absolutely sensational.

“Dortmund are the underdog for the tie, but they have surprised us all. Real are much stronger than in the group stages, but Dortmund are capable of beating them.”

Bayern Munich were paired with Barcelona in the other semi-final tie and after suggestions FCB could call upon coach-to-be and former Blaugrana boss Pep Guardiola for advice, Effenberg has moved to dismiss that notion.

He added: “There will be no call to Pep. Jupp Heynckes is experienced enough to know what to do.

“Barca have a small advantage, but Bayern Munich are incredibly strong. It is important Bayern do not hide and they cannot focus all their attentions on Messi – you cannot completely turn off a player like Messi.”