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FC Bayern München chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists FC Barcelona remain "the benchmark for football in Europe" as the newly crowned German champions attempt to claim the underdog tag for a semi-final tie Manuel Neuer says "should be a real cracker".
"Barcelona have won the Champions League more than any other team in recent years," Rummenigge said in reaction to Friday's Nyon draw. "They are the best team in Europe at the moment, fantastic going forward. We played them in 2009 and got a real thumping. I remember that game well and I don't really like to think about it – it was painful viewing."
That 2009 quarter-final brought the fifth and sixth meetings between the sides, and was effectively over inside the first 45 minutes as Barcelona stormed into a 4-0 half-time lead at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi did much of the damage, scoring twice, but Jupp Heynckes knows teams focus all their attentions on him at their peril. The Bayern coach said: "Barcelona aren't just about Messi; they have plenty of great players. Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas and David Villa – the list goes on."
Bayern are not short of star names either, and the manner in which they wrapped up the Bundesliga title with a record six games to spare last weekend provides cause for Blaugrana caution. "It will be a big challenge," warned Barcelona technical director Andoni Zubizarreta. "We will focus on what we know and what we can do, and how much we let them play.
"I think we will see a lot of good football; it will be a semi-final played with great intensity which we will approach full of respect for our opponents – but with confidence too," continued the former Spain goalkeeper. "Bayern are a big team with great players and a great coach. They are a big club with great supporters, a wonderful stadium, and it's the Champions League semi-finals – you don't get here by chance."
There is a sense this would have made a fitting final – "with two teams playing at the highest level" according to Rummenigge. Lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy at Wembley would also mean a fitting farewell for Heynckes, who guided Real Madrid CF to the European crown in 1998 and retires after the German Cup final on 1 June. There is plenty to do before then, however. This should be, as Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer says, "a real cracker of a tie".
14/04/2009, quarter-finals: Bayern 1-1 Barcelona (Ribéry 47; Keita 73)
08/04/2009, quarter-finals: Barcelona 4-0 Bayern (Messi 9 38, Eto'o 12, Henry 43)
04/11/1998, group stage: Barcelona 1-2 Bayern (Giovanni 29pen; Zickler 48, Salihamidžić 87)
21/10/1998, group stage: Bayern 1-0 Barcelona (Effenberg 45)
16/04/1996, UEFA Cup semi-finals: Barcelona 1-2 Bayern (De la Peña 88; Babbel 39, Witeczek 83)
02/04/1996, UEFA Cup semi-finals: Bayern 2-2 Barcelona (Witeczek 52, Scholl 57; Oscar García 15, Hagi 77)
* UEFA Champions League unless stated
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