Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Two of the Champions League’s biggest names lock horns at the Estadio da Luz on Friday, when five times winners’ Barcelona and Bayern Munich go head-to-head in the competition’s most captivating looking quarter final tie.
Bayern Munich, engaged in a phenomenal 18-game winning streak, have been playing with the swagger of European champions elect, and the barnstorming Bavarians will enter Friday’s quarter final comfortable carriers of their favourites tag.
But while Barcelona are undoubtedly a traditional giant moving through a period of transition, the lingering magic of Lionel Messi is too powerful to dismiss, making Los Cules underdogs that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Ahead of the action on Friday, we’ve taken a look at some of the key battles that could decide the outcome of the game, as well as some of the star performers hoping to shine at the Stadium of Light.
For a more thorough analysis of the game, check out our Barcelona vs Bayern Munich predictions here.
Lionel Messi vs Alphonso Davies
There aren’t enough adjectives in the thesaurus to adequately describe the brilliance of Lionel Messi, and the Barcelona legend’s wondergoal against Napoli in the Last 16 was a timely reminder of the diminutive Argentine’s unique match-winning genius.
On Friday, the evergreen 33-year old could find himself sharing the same spaces as the blossoming Alphonso Davies.
The Canadian has been a revelation since breaking into the team at Bayern Munich in January last year, and the 19-year-old has barely put a foot wrong in his five Champions League starts this season.
Every inch the modern-day raiding fullback, Davies will have to lean on his defensive attributes more often than he usually does against Lionel Messi however, and it will be fascinating to see how the explosive teenager deals with one of football’s all-time greats.
Gerard Pique vs Robert Lewandowski
Everywhere you look on Friday, world-class players will be lining up in direct opposition to each other, and Gerard Pique’s head-to-head with Robert Lewandowski has all the makings of a sensational individual duel.
The vastly experienced Gerard Pique has again been a mainstay of the Barcelona team this season, however, like many of his teammates also approaching their mid-30s, there has been a wobble or two from time to time.
The 33-year-old defender has already been booked an incredible 20 times in 44 appearances in all competitions, and on Friday he will be marking arguably the most lethal centre-forward in world football, Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish hitman, who Bayern have championed as a better player than Lionel Messi this week, is enjoying the most prolific campaign of his glittering career in 2019/20, and Lewandowski is aiming to add to his 53 goals this season on Friday.
13 of those goals were plundered in the Champions League, and the 31-year-old with the lethal touch in the final third, will take some stopping in Lisbon.
Sergio Busquets vs Thomas Muller
Three-time Champions League winner Sergio Busquets will reprise his familiar role at the base of the Barcelona midfield this week after suspension, and the 32-year-old’s comeback is a timely one.
Averaging 2.3 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game this season, Busquets is the perfect screen in front of Barca’s defence, while his 78 passes per game average makes him the club’s most prolific possession distributor.
On Friday, Busquets will have to stretch every inch of his acumen to cope with the invention of Bayern star Thomas Muller. The 30-year-old German icon has enjoyed an incredibly productive campaign as a more central creative player in 2019/20 – and his numbers for the season back that up.
With an eye-watering 22 assists, Muller is way out on his own as Bayern’s most consistent chance creator this term, and the Bavaria-born schemer is also into double figures for goals (12).
Thiago vs Frenkie de Jong
If the rumours hold weight, then master technician Thiago could be enjoying his swansong for Bayern Munich ahead of a summer switch to Liverpool in the Premier League.
The 29-year-old will line up against his former club on Friday and Barcelona will be all too aware how effective their ex-starlet is at knitting play together through central areas.
In 23-year-old Frenkie de Jong, Barca have an emerging playmaker they hope will reach Thiago’s level over the next couple of years.
The former Ajax man has enjoyed a promising first campaign at the Camp Nou following his switch from the Eredivisie, though he will feel he is a statement performance or two from fully establishing himself at the club.
Friday’s quarter final represents another opportunity to do just that, and de Jong will be keen to impress against a polished opponent in Thiago. It’s worth noting that Thiago has been booked nine times in just 26 European and domestic starts for Barcelona this season – a total that makes him worth considering in the cards market this week.
Luis Suarez vs David Alaba
At 33, Luiz Suarez is heading towards the twilight years of his career, though the Uruguayan’s insanely good goals to game ratio this season suggests he has plenty left in the tank.
Incredibly, the controversial forward has notched 20 goals in just 27 starts in the Champions League and La Liga this term, and despite an injury curtailed campaign, Suarez has managed to fire his way through the double decade ceiling for the eighth straight season.
The ever-dependable David Alaba will be tasked with keeping a lid on the fiery Suarez this week, and the defender – converted from left back to centre-half – has the skillset to keep his South American adversary under wraps.
At 28, Alaba has made the transition from promising youngster to battle-hardened pro in recent seasons, and Bayern hare hoping that the Austrian international will commit to a new contract this summer.
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