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Barca stick with winning formula

06 May 2015, 20:02

Madrid - French great Thierry Henry has been reminiscing on Sky Sports about how Pep Guardiola was a hard taskmaster when he played under the coach at Barcelona. Guardiola wouldn't allow players to train if they arrived late or stayed out past midnight the evening before, Henry said. "He demanded intensity."

8:16 p.m.

Also read: Enrique lays down the gauntlet

This from Barcelona's statisticians: Lionel Messi is playing his 100th game in European competition. He scored 76 goals in the first 99, winning three Champions League titles and two European Super Cups.

Defender Thomas Vermaelen, who has yet to play for Barcelona since an offseason move from Arsenal, is on the bench, after a long struggle with injuries. If Gerard Pique or Javier Mascherano get hurt, could the Belgian make his debut in one of the biggest games of the season?

8:10 p.m.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is taking no chances, sticking with the same starting XI that has proven unstoppable since early January, with 26 wins, one draw and one loss in all competitions.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar already have a combined 108 goals this season.

Andres Iniesta will be looked to for midfield magic, alongside defensive specialist Sergio Busquets and do-it-all Ivan Rakitic, whose hustle has bumped Xavi Hernandez onto the bench.

Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will run the flanks, with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano anchoring the defense. The only doubt was at center back, but Mascherano was a sure bet after Jeremy Mathieu tweaked his right Achilles.

8:03 p.m.

Pep Guardiola has Robert Lewandowski up front, playing with facial fractures. He is expected to wear a protective mask. The Poland striker collided in the German Cup semifinal with Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.

Bastian Schweinsteiger didn't come off the bench in Bayern's 6-1 demolition of Porto in the quarterfinal second leg last month but slots into the midfield against Barcelona.

Bayern will look to him to disrupt the threat from Barcelona's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Mario Gotze, who scored Germany's winner in the 2014 World Cup final, drops to the bench.

8 p.m. Teams for tonight.

Barcelona: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez.

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer, Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Juan Bernat, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski.

7:37 p.m.

The last meeting of these European giants, in the 2013 semifinals, left stud marks on the Barcelona psyche. Bayern hammered the visitors 4-0 in Munich and then piled insult on injury with a 3-0 victory at the Camp Nou.

Ouch. That was Barcelona's only loss in its last 32 Champions League home matches.

Barcelona payback tonight?

7:31 p.m.

A team bus with police escort has just whisked Bayern Munich into the bowels of Camp Nou.

7:30 p.m.

You say "Camp Nou," I say "Nou Camp." So which is it? In sports journalism, the name of Barcelona's stadium is a frequent source of confusion.

In fact, both are acceptable in Catalan, the local language. "Nou" means new and "camp" means ground.

But there's a but. In a 2001 referendum, club members voted by a comfortable majority (68 percent) for "Camp Nou" as the official name for the stadium, Europe's biggest, seating 99,354 people (being expanded to 105,000 by 2021).

So "Camp Nou" is the name our Associated Press writers use, except when they forget and use "Nou Camp."

We'll use "Camp Nou" tonight.

And how do we know all this?

Because Barcelona helpfully has a whole page on its web site dedicated to this naming conundrum.

7:20 p.m.

Very German-like, the first fans to start taking their places in the huge bowl that is the Camp Nou were Bayern supporters. They have already unfurled banners.

For their sake, here's hoping they also brought sunblock, otherwise there will be tender foreheads. The sun is beating down on the majestic stadium with its famous motto, "More Than a Club," emblazoned in Catalan across the stands.

7:15 p.m. (Spanish time)

Will the Barcelona crowd that once adored Pep Guardiola turn on him tonight? Can Lionel Messi hopscotch Cristiano Ronaldo as the Champions League top scorer?

So many questions. You'll find the answers here over the next hours from the mouth-watering Champions League semifinal of Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich, playing the first of two legs for a place in the June 6 final in Berlin.

At Barcelona, Guardiola delivered trophies faster than pizza. A heap of them, including six Spanish league titles, as a player who came up through the club's youth system. And 14 more in a golden spell as coach from 2008-2012. Then he crossed to the dark side. Bayern's manager since June 2013 makes his first return to Barcelona's Camp Nou tonight. Will Europe's biggest stadium snarl or welcome him back?

Football's greatest rivals Messi and Ronaldo were tied on a record 75 Champions League goals each until the Real Madrid forward scored his 76th against Juventus in the other semifinal first leg on Tuesday night. Juventus won 2-1, a narrow advantage to nurse in the second leg next Wednesday.

Anything Ronaldo can do, Messi can do better?

Kick off is 90 minutes away.

- AP


Mathieu adds to Barca injury problems

26 October 2016, 20:17

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