Frankfurt — Bayern Munich must score and hope to contain football's most efficient attack, led by Lionel Messi, when it meets Barcelona in their Champions League semifinal return leg on Tuesday.
Bayern is seeking to become only the second team in the 23-year-old history of the Champions League to overcome a three-goal deficit. Bayern lost the first leg last week 3-0 to coach Pep Guardiola's old team, with Messi contributing two superb goals and assisting on Neymar's final strike.
Only Deportivo la Coruna managed to wipe away a three-goal deficit, beating AC Milan 4-0 at home in the 2004 quarterfinals after losing the first leg 4-1.
Five-time champion Bayern, seeking its 11th final on June 6 in Berlin, can feel some optimism due to its unblemished record at home this season in the competition, with 19 goals scored and one conceded in five games. In its last two Champions League home matches, Bayern has scored 13 goals, including a 6-1 rout of Porto after a 3-1 away defeat.
But Bayern has lost four straight matches across all competitions and has not scored in its last three matches — for the first time in 17 years.
Four-time winner Barcelona is one leg away from an eighth final.
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Messi won the first duel with his former manager with a pair of breathtaking goals that ignited the Camp Nou before setting up Neymar to make it 3-0.
Messi leads Barcelona with 53 goals this season, including a Champions League-leading 10.
But what sets this Barcelona apart from recent years is that the club has found the two perfect wingmen for Messi, and Bayern will have to find a way to stop all three if it wants to keep the clean sheet required to even dream of a comeback.
Neymar has scored in his last six appearances, and took his season tally to 35 goals on Saturday, scoring Barcelona's first in a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad that left it one win away from the Spanish league title.
"I'm very comfortable with my teammates because we are having an excellent season," Neymar said.
Luis Suarez has added 24 goals despite missing first two months of the season as he completed a four-month ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup.
That's 112 goals between the strikers, and yet another reason Barcelona is poised to reach the final.
When Germany played Argentina in the final of last year's World Cup final, Germany coach Joachim Loew sent on Mario Goetze as a substitute and told him to show the world that he can be better than Messi. Goetze responded by scoring the winning goal for the title with wonderful touch.
But while Messi is enjoying a prolific season, Goetze has remained mostly under the radar. He is often used as a substitute and has had few outstanding moments despite scoring nine goals.
Former Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer last week sharply criticized Goetze, saying he had to show more of a presence on the field.
With Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben injured, Guardiola may decide to start Goetze as a forward. Perhaps he needs to give him some extra motivation, just as Loew did.
Guardiola's guru-like aura since his arrival in Bayern last season is beginning to evaporate. The media are beginning to question some of his tactics, including a back-three defense attempt in Barcelona that lasted 15 minutes.
Critics are pointing out that Bayern has won four of 11 matches in the Champions League knockout phase in two seasons under Guardiola.
In the Bundesliga, Bayern has struggled against higher-ranked teams, losing to Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach and also going out against Dortmund in the German Cup.
Guardiola has called it a "super season" despite the setbacks, but there is already speculation whether he will remain for the last season on his contract.
"Oh lads. I've said it 200 million times ... I have another year on my contract. I will stay here next season," Guardiola said Monday.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.