MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the betting ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg between Barcelona and Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich | Wednesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Pep Guardiola’s homecoming will hog the headlines in the build-up to Bayern Munich’s trip to the Camp Nou on Wednesday night and the Bavarians boss will be pleased to deflect some of the attention away from his injury-ravaged visitors.
On Saturday the Bayern coach made seven changes to the side that lost in the DFB Pokal semi-final against Dortmund, effectively fielding a B-team as FC Hollywood went down 2-0 at Leverkusen. A 25th Bundesliga title might have already been secured but the German champions are not in a good place right now.
Along with the absence of David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Holger Badstuber, Robert Lewandowski will play in a protective mask having broken his nose and cheek in the Dortmund defeat meaning Guardiola will need to rethink his tactical plans ahead of a return to Catalonia where he won 14 trophies in four years.
Bayern have won in three of their four visits to the Camp Nou but must overcome a bout of continental travel sickness if they’re to have any chance of avoiding defeat in the first leg tie. The Bavarians have W2-D2-L3 of their last seven away Champions League duels and their performance in Porto in the previous round was particularly listless.
That display was also in keeping with a Pep team in away knockout football. Guardiola’s sides often look as if they’re holding something back in away legs and Porto were the better team in every department, exposing Bayern’s defensive line superbly, while also showing the Germans the intensity they should have had in an oddly meek attack.
Pep’s record on the road in knockout football now reads W4-D8-L5 and although he’s unlikely to move away from his possession-based game, you do wonder whether the available XI can cope physically and mentally with the challenge that awaits in the Camp Nou.
Bayern simply don’t have the ammunition to rip Barcelona to shreds on the counter-attack as they did in 2013 and should the visiting boss opt to play a back-three, the Catalan giants will be given plenty of space to run riot with their superstar strike-force hungry for more goals. Defensively FC Hollywood have been shaky in recent weeks and if Porto can rack up three goals, then what can Barca achieve?
I said at the start of the season that I didn’t feel the Blaugrana could win the Champions League this year and I remain true to my word. Sure, the confidence in opposing Barca has waned slightly and on paper I felt this was the worst possible draw for Luis Enrique’s team. But the injuries experienced by Bayern have certainly turned the tables in Barcelona’s favour and they must capitalise on Wednesday.
The Catalans have won eight successive Champions League games for the first time since 2002/03, have W36-D2-L2 in their past 40 outings, netted 14 goals in their last two La Liga fixtures and are out for revenge for the 7-0 aggregate mauling handed to them by Bayern in 2013. The 8/11 from William Hill on a home win is more than fair but I reckon we can take things up a notch…
BetVictor have made Barcelona -1 on the Asian Handicap line a 5/4 play and that’s what interests me most. Taking this selection means we’ll get our cash back should the hosts win by a single goal but should Barca come out on top by two goals or more, we’ll be in profit.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich – Barcelona -1 Asian Handicap (5/4 BetVictor)
Ladbrokes are offering new customers the chance to back Barcelona at an enhanced price of 6/1 on Wednesday night as opposed to their advertised 7/10.
That’s a huge boost and well worth attacking if you’re fancying a punt on a home win.