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Sports - August 13, 2020

Messi’s toughest task as Barcelona face up to Bayern Munich

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Lionel Messi after scoring against Napoli in the Champions League last 16, second leg. Bayern Munich will be daunting opponents for Barcelona in the quarter-finals on Friday

AFP

The only surviving former winners of European club football’s greatest prize — with five titles each — meet in a heavyweight Champions League quarter-final behind closed doors at the Estadio da Luz.

It is not often that Messi’s Barcelona come into such a big European tie as the underdogs, but they have this time, with Quique Setien’s team having lost out to Real Madrid in the Spanish title race while Bayern appeared flawless on the way to winning a German league and cup double.

Messi is now 33, yet Barcelona appear more reliant on him than ever.

He scored twice against Bayern in the quarter-finals in 2009 when Barcelona went on to win the Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

He hit four against Arsenal the following year and five against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012 but on both occasions, Barca were favourites.

Messi also sank Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011 when his double in the first leg of the semi-final, including one of the finest goals the competition has ever seen, transcended a rivalry that had been dragged to its ugliest point.

And he was part of perhaps the tournament’s greatest comeback, the 6-1 destruction of Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 after Barcelona lost 4-0 in the first leg of that last-16 tie.

Yet this time threatens to be different.

With Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann alongside him, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets behind him and Jordi Alba out wide, Messi should not be on his own.

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