Bayern Munich v Barcelona - key battles

Bastian Schweinsteiger could be key for Bayern Munich. Photo: PA

Bayern Munich play host to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Allianz Arena tomorrow night.

The German giants, who recently clinched the Bundesliga title in record time, are aiming to reach their third final in four years having finished runners-up in 2010 and 2012.

Primera Division champions-elect Barcelona, meanwhile, are hoping to conquer Europe for the fourth time in eight years following their successes in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

Here, we look at the potential key battles.


Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach last summer, Dante wasted little time in establishing himself as a key member of a miserly Bayern backline that has conceded just 14 goals in 30 Bundesliga matches so for this season - 21 goals less than the next-best defence in the division - and equalled a club-record of 19 league clean sheets. The left-footed Brazil international is more than comfortable on the ball but it is his outstanding defensive qualities which are likely to be tested to the full against Barca's all-star attack. Leading that attack is set to be Lionel Messi, a player universally regarded as one of the best in history and who needs little introduction. Messi has been nursing a hamstring problem in recent weeks but he has travelled to Munich and is expected to feature. The Argentina ace has been breaking records for fun over the last few seasons and, with 57 goals in all competitions for Barca already this campaign, he could be crowned FIFA world player of the year for the fifth successive time.


Still only 28, Germany ace Schweinsteiger has been a mainstay of the Bayern team for over a decade and has helped the club claim six Bundesliga titles as well as a host of other trophies. However, he has been twice a loser in the Champions League final and the tireless all-action midfielder will be desperate for it to be third time lucky this season. Part of Schweinsteiger's responsibility in the semi-finals will be to try to nullify the influence of Barca schemer Xavi, something that has proved almost impossible for opposing teams down the years. The 33-year-old may be approaching the end of his career but there is little evidence to suggest the Spanish World Cup and European Championship-winning midfielder has lost any of his supreme passing ability or importance to Barca's well-oiled machine.


Gomez has not been an automatic first-choice for Jupp Heynckes this season but with Mario Mandzukic suspended tomorrow the powerfully-built Germany international, who has scored 25 Champions League goals in 42 appearances, could be asked to lead the line. His physical presence could cause problems for a weakened Barcelona defence and it will be down to 6ft 4in Pique to try to keep Gomez's impact to a minimum. Barca coach Tito Vilanova has omitted Pique for the last two Primera Division games and, with fellow defenders Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano injured, Adriano suspended and Eric Abidal only recently back after a year on the sidelines, he will hope the Spain international is well-rested ahead of tomorrow's game.