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Barcelona v Bayern: reporters' view

UEFA.com's FC Barcelona reporter Graham Hunter and FC Bayern München expert Andy James go head-to-head as they size up their sides' semi-final chances.

Gerard Piqué's Barcelona did not enjoy their last meeting with Bayern
Gerard Piqué's Barcelona did not enjoy their last meeting with Bayern ©Getty Images

Strengths
Graham Hunter: Gerard Piqué told UEFA.com he has never witnessed a striking trio of such skill, electric technique or mutual understanding anywhere in his career as the current Barrcelona attacking line. Neymar and Luis Suárez have both had their stellar moments this season but Lionel Messi is the ringmaster. Fit, lean and enjoying his football, he caused Bayern coach Josep Guardiola to gasp with admiration and do a semi-comic double-take when – on a scouting mission – he saw Messi's devastating showing against Manchester City FC.

Andy James: Bayern are experts at keeping the ball, but there is more to it than that. They can play in a variety of formations and interchange positions, making them all the more unpredictable. Furthermore, goals can come from anywhere – Thomas Müller has six in this season's UEFA Champions League, Robert Lewandowski five, Mario Götze four and Franck Ribéry and Jérôme Boateng three apiece.

Weaknesses
Graham Hunter: At their absolute peak under Guardiola, Barcelona used to subdue opponents then dominate them and then run up sizeable scores. This side creates plenty of chances but tends not to rack up handfuls of goals. In terms of skill, no team in the world are better than Barcelona, but man-for-man they are smaller and less physically powerful than Bayern.

Andy James: Being camped out in opposition territory can leave Bayern vulnerable to counterattacks – as VfL Wolfsburg and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach have shown in the Bundesliga. Also, with wing wizards Arjen Robben and Ribéry injured, the Bavarians might lack penetration. Winning the Bundesliga with plenty to spare last term was detrimental to their UEFA Champions League quest, though those lessons should have been learned.

Magical Messi goals
Magical Messi goals

Form
Graham Hunter: In all three competitions, Barcelona have won a total of 21 away games this season. In part, that is down to the torrent of goals flowing from Messi, Suárez and Neymar, but it also stems from their stingy goals-against column and the fact Luis Enrique's men are again pressing with energy and consistency. Just look at Saturday's 8-0 demolition of Córdoba CF.

Andy James: Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions with four matches to spare and have lost only three times all campaign, scoring 77 and shipping 15. Their display against FC Porto in the quarter-final second leg was sensational and, if the squad has been threadbare owing to injuries recently, quality players like Thiago Alcántara and Javi Martínez appear to be returning at the right time.

Knockout pedigree
Graham Hunter: Barcelona are THE UEFA Champions League team of the last decade. With three continental triumphs, including one of the all-time great final showings against Manchester United FC at Wembley in 2011, they are used to success. The seismic shock around Camp Nou last term when they failed to make the last four is a measure of their high standards.

Andy James: Bayern are overflowing with experience in knockout football. This is the fourth successive campaign that the Bavarians have reached the UEFA Champions League semis and the core of the squad has remained the same. They also boast multiple FIFA World Cup winners (both German and Spanish) who know what it takes to progress on the biggest stage of all.

Bayern stars on Guardiola
Bayern stars on Guardiola

Prediction
Graham Hunter: Bayern start as favourites given the advantage of playing the second leg in Bavaria and Guardiola's deep knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the side he left behind. However Barcelona, if they perform to their absolute limit, possess the capacity to prevail as underdogs.

Andy James: Thomas Müller called the second-leg pasting of Porto a "statement of intent" – and Bayern certainly sent out a message to their European rivals. They are unbeaten at home in Europe this season and will not want to be eliminated from the tournament in front of their own fans like last term. Close to call, but I think Bayern will shade it.

One to watch
Graham Hunter: Andrés Iniesta has had a quieter campaign than normal, having to adapt to the ball being held far less regularly in midfield, yet in recent weeks – particularly against Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – the 30-year-old magician has rediscovered his sleight of feet.

Andy James: After Robben sustained a season-ending calf injury barely a quarter of an hour into his long-awaited return against Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup semi-finals, Bayern fans will be pinning their hopes on Lewandowski to fire them past Barcelona – provided he can play with a mask after breaking his jaw and nose in the shoot-out defeat by BVB. Nine goals in his last 12 matches speak for themselves, but the Polish international brings far more to Bayern's all-round attacking game with his skill, strength and elite quality.

Possible starting XI
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.

Bayern: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Benatia, Bernat; Lahm, Alonso, Thiago Alcántara; Müller, Lewandowski, Götze.