The Champions League quarterfinals continue on Friday night with the round’s most interesting matchup, as FC Barcelona take on Bayern Munich at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal.
A battle between these two sides this late into the tournament was always going to be massively anticipated, but current circumstances have made things even more thrilling. Instead of the usual home-and-away two legged affair, there will be only one game at a neutral venue to decide who makes it into the semifinals.
Everything will be decided on Friday, which means the drama on show should be at an all time high.
Barcelona will likely be without the French pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele, as the former is dealing with an ankle injury while the latter only just returned to training.
Another Frenchman who will miss out is Munich defender Benjamin Pavard, who is also dealing with an ankle issue.
There are some doubts surrounding Jerome Boateng and Alphonso Davies, as both have recently picked up knocks, but they still should feature on Friday.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquetes, Rakitic, Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Kimmich, Boateng, Alaba, Davies, Thiago, Goretzka, Coman, Muller, Gnabry, Lewandowski
Ones to watch
The man who has almost single-handedly carried Barca to this stage, all of the team's hopes rest on the shoulders of Lionel Messi.
The Argentine has led them all season long, getting things done on almost every side of the ball. Messi has still been scoring regularly, grabbing 31 goals in total during the campaign. He’s also become much more of a playmaker this year, with his tally of 26 assists showcasing that.
Messi’s impact goes beyond the scoresheet as well. He’s the one usually on the ball for Barca, either keeping possession or driving at opposing defenders. The number 10 attracts attention at all times, which leaves his teammates open across the pitch.
Up against an elite Munich team, Messi knows the pressure will be on him to carry Barca once again. No one can doubt his legacy, but if the Argentine can somehow lead this flawed Barcelona team to Champions League glory, it could be one of his greatest ever achievements.
Games like these are what separate the good from the great, and if Robert Lewandowski wants to be considered one of the greats, then he’ll need to perform on the night.
He’s been the best striker on the planet by a wide margin this past season, scoring 53 goals in all competitions. His tally in the Champions League has been especially impressive, with his 13 goals putting him only four behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s all time single season record.
Lewandowski is in the best form of his career, and many are expecting him to fire Munich to the trophy. However, there are some reasons to be concerned for fans of the Bavarians.
As superb as the Polish international has been these last few years, he’s not quite been as effective for Bayern in big Champions League contests. He failed to score against Liverpool last season, and Lewandowski didn’t find the back of the net against Real Madrid the campaign before that either. Munich were eliminated on both occasions, proving just how crucial his goals are for the team at this level.
Only time will tell what happens on Friday, but Munich knows they’ll need Lewandowski at his best if they want to advance to the semifinals.
It’s been over five years since these two sides last faced off in a competitive contest, with their last matchups coming in the 2015 Champions League semifinals.
The tie was all but decided in the first leg as Barca ran riot at the Camp Nou, winning 3-0. After an even start, Messi completely took over. It started when he rifled a shot from the edge of the area into the bottom corner. Then, in a moment of pure magic, he spun Boateng, who fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes, before delicately chipping the ball over Manuel Neuer and into the back of the net. It was peak Messi.
He would even grab an assist before the night was done, playing Neymar through on goal before the Brazilian coolly slotted home between the legs of Neuer.
Munich started the 2nd leg on the front foot, and looked to start a remarkable comeback when Mehdi Benatia headed home a corner from Xabi Alonso in the 7th minute.
Barca would be too much to handle once again, however, as they grabbed two away goals before the half hour mark. Both came courtesy of Neymar, who finished off a pair of devastating counter attacks set up by Messi and Luis Suarez.
Bayern did score two more when Lewandowski and Thomas Muller each rifled in shots from distance, but it was too little too late, as Barcelona would advance to the final with a 5-3 aggregate victory before ultimately winning the tournament.
Where to watch
Those in the UK can watch the contest on BT Sport, while those in the United States can see the game on CBS All Access.