Barcelona are scheduled to face Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League on Friday night. The Blaugrana go into the game on the back of a 3-1 win over Napoli at the Camp Nou. The victory saw them progress to the last eight of the competition with a 4-2 aggregate score.
They are now set to face Bayern in one-legged tie at the Estadio da Luz. The German champions have been in sublime form since mid-December, winning a remarkable 26 of their 27 matches and recently brushed aside Chelsea with a comfortable 7-1 aggregate win.
Ahead of the upcoming meeting, Bayern are regarded as the favourites to reach the final four of the elite competition and the Blaugrana will need to produce a flawless defensive performance to keep a free-scoring Robert Lewandowski at bay.
The Poland international has netted a staggering 53 goals from 44 appearances this term and he produced a stunning statistic against Chelsea as he was involved in all seven goals scored by Bayern (three goals and four assists) across both legs.
The Blaugrana have the ultra-reliable Lionel Messi, who could likewise prove a threat to the Bayern backline, but the game could be dictated by more than just the duo. One player, who could potentially scupper Barcelona’s semi-final hopes is Coutinho.
Coutinho is currently on loan at Bayern until the end of the season from the Catalan giants and the absence of the so-called ‘fear clause‘ from UEFA means that he can participate against his parent club at the Estadio da Luz this week.
The 28-year-old has obviously been restricted to a bench role during the backend of Bayern’s season and he has hardly featured following the coronavirus shutdown after undergoing an ankle surgery which kept him out for nine games.
Against Chelsea, Bayern boss Hansi Flick went with Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry on the left and right wing respectively and the former was chosen because of the fitness concern for Kingsley Coman.
Perisic delivered a good showing with a goal, but it will be interesting to see whether Flick is tempted to swap him with Coutinho, who may have a point to prove to his permanent employers.
Coman has returned to training in the lead-up to the contest, but it would be a fascinating sight to watch the performance of Coutinho, suppose he is given the chance to make an impact against the Blaugrana.
Bayern have decided against the buy option for the playmaker, but a standout display on the night could attract transfer interest from elsewhere which makes it a win-win situation.
While that would suit the Blaugrana, who are aiming to offload him at least on a temporary deal next term, they would surely want to avoid the prospect of getting eliminated from the Champions League because of their own player.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com