Lescott - "You don't want to play PSG at any stage"Nov 12
Five years after Lionel Messi humiliated Jerome Boateng in the Nou Camp, Bayern Munich are locked and loaded to return the favour with Barcelona's star on the wane
In-form Bayern are out for revenge as two of the biggest clubs in European football meet for a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
It's a moment that will go down as one of the most iconic in Champions League history.
Dribbling into the penalty box from the right flank, a single drop of Lionel Messi's left shoulder was enough to twist Bayern Munich centre-back Jerome Boateng inside out, sending him tumbling backwards as the Barcelona forward jinked past the stricken German before delicately dinking the ball over Manuel Neuer.
The clip of the goal itself was immortalised in pop culture history by thousands of Twitter memes as fans rushed to celebrate Messi's stroke of genius.
It was a split second that became emblematic of a once-in-a-generation Barcelona side, complete with Neymar and Luis Suarez, that had swept all before them as they went on to win a fifth European Cup with victory over Juventus in the final.
Now, five years on, Bayern are out for revenge and primed to inflict some humiliation of their own as the two clubs meet for a place in the last four of the Champions League.
The recent fortunes of the two European giants could not be more contrasting.
Bayern, invigorated and inspired since the turn of the year, are on the verge of an historic treble.
However, by their own high standards, they got off to a shaky start in the Bundesliga.
After ten games, they were fourth in the table as a heavy 5-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt cost Niko Kovač his job.
New manager Hansi Flick took a few games to set things straight, but the German giants ended up winning 19 of the remaining 20 games to finish top for the eighth successive season, 13 points ahead of second-placed Borussia Dortmund.
Victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup final means only the Champions League remains in the quest to sweep all before them this season.
Leading the line will be man-of-the-moment Robert Lewandowski, whose goals helped Bayern become only the fifth team to win all six group stage matches.
The prolific Pole enjoyed his best-ever Bundesliga season, netting 34 goals to win the Torjägerkanone for a fifth time.
No one has scored more Champions League goals in 2019 than Lewandowski, despite the fact Bayern only reached the last 16 last season.
Only Raul, Messi and Ronaldo sit ahead of him in the competition's all-time leading goalscorers chart.
In the last round, Lewandowski extended his lead as this season's top goalscorer, bagging a double as Bayern battered Chelsea 4-1 last Saturday to cruise to a 7-1 aggregate win and book a date with Barcelona.
By comparison, it's been a season to forget for Messi and five-time winners Barcelona.
The Argentinean maestro has only scored three times in this season's Champions League.
It's a poor return for a player of Messi's record but the club's problems extend further than the form of their greatest ever player.
A more enigmatic character than his old adversary Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi once preferred to let his football do the talking but even the quietly-spoken Argentinean appears to have reached the end of his tether after a season that saw the Catalan giants surrender their league title.
“We are a weak team who can be beaten with enough intensity and enthusiasm. We have lost a lot of points which we shouldn’t have done [and] been very inconsistent," Messi raged after a shock defeat to Osasuna just days before their last 16 second leg against Napoli.
“If we want to fight for the Champions League, a lot has to change."
'Lewangoalski' - King of the goalscoring charts
Bundesliga top scorers
Robert Lewandowski - 34 goals
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) - 28 goals
Jadon Sancho (Dortmund) - 17 goals
Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg) - 16 goals
Riuwen Hennings (Fortuna) - 15 goals
Champions League top scorers
Lewandowksi - 13 goals
Erling Haaland (Dortmund) - 10 goals
Serge Gnabry (Bayern) - 6 goals
Dries Merthens (Napoli) - 6 goals
Harry Kane (Spurs) - 6 goals
Now in the twilight years of his remarkable career, the chance to reclaim club football’s most illustrious prize remains a burning desire for the 33-year-old.
But as Messi prepares to line up in another crunch European knockout game, there is a growing sense that Barcelona's star is fading just as Bayern's is beginning to burn brighter than ever.
"Messi faces his successor as the best player in the world: Robert Lewandowski. He is the best player, not just the best forward," said former Bayern skipper Lothar Matthaus.
"The Barca of today is no longer the same as before. They have Messi, of course. A player like him is always capable of genius.
"But he alone will not be enough against this Bayern team. Barcelona do not scare me."
The context invokes echoes of 2013, when a rampant Bayern side pulled off a record Champions League semi-final aggregate win over Barcelona.
Similar to Flick's all-action class of 2020, Jupp Heynckes's 2013 vintage were quickly establishing themselves as a future European superpower.
Having won the competition in 2009 and 2011, Barcelona were favourites to win a third trophy in five years.
But over two awe-inspiring legs, the Catalans were torn down from their pedestal by a Bayern side at the peak of their powers.
After taking command of the tie with a 4-0 victory at the Allianz Arena, Bayern travelled to Spain intent on finishing the job.
On a remarkable night, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller scored either side of a Gerard Pique own goal to help Bayern silence the Nou Camp and seal a scarcely believable 7-0 aggregate win.
The one caveat is that Messi missed both legs through injury and, in truth, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is the only thing standing between Bayern and a repeat showing of seven years ago.
Speaking to press on the eve of the game, Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka provided a window into the mindset that has seen the German giants installed as second favourites to lift a sixth European Cup.
"I think we can beat every opponent," he said.
"Of course, we know a very good team is waiting for us, peppered with world-class players, but we arrive with a broad chest that we've developed over the past nine months. We are in a very positive mood."
Can Bayern Munich live up to the hype and harness the memories of 2013 to end Barcelona's miserable season on a sour note? Or will Messi produce another miracle and help deliver another Champions League final appearance?
Barcelona play Bayern Munich for a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League on Friday 14 August.