Sadio Mane can help seal top spot for Bayern Munich in UEFA Champions League Group C when the Bundesliga’s record champions take on former striker Robert Lewandowski and Barcelona on Wednesday (9pm CEST).
Bayern are already assured of their place in the Champions League round of 16, after winning their first four group encounters. They will be confirmed as group winners if they extend their 100 percent record in their penultimate fixture, or if second-placed Inter Milan fail to get the better of Viktoria Plzen. That’s something Bayern did convincingly, winning 4-2 in the Czech Republic and 5-0 on home soil. Mane scored in both games, and will be raring to go after beginning a competitive match on the bench for the first time as a Bayern player this past weekend. Teenager Jamal Musiala and in-form veteran striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting did the damage in a comfortable win over Hoffenheim that moved the Bavarian behemoth to within a point of Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin. Bayern have now won five matches in a row in all competitions, despite being without the likes of Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez, Thomas Müller and Leroy Sane of late. Only Müller is expected back in Julian Nagelsmann’s matchday squad for the trip to Camp Nou, but may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to keep the pressure La Liga leaders Real Madrid, but their hopes of joining Bayern in the Champions League knockouts are hanging by a thread. The Catalans lost 2-0 in Munich on Matchday 2, before taking just a point from back-to-back meetings with Inter, whom Bayern beat 2-0 in their group opener. Three points off the qualifying pace in third, Xavi‘s side will be unable to reach the round of 16 if they lose, Inter win at home to Plzen or both games are drawn. Worryingly for fans of a Barca persuasion, the Blaugrana have lost their last five Champions League meetings with Bayern – and nine of 12 all told. And while they can count on Lewandowski, who’s added 17 goals in 15 Barcelona appearances to the 344 he produced across eight seasons at Bayern, the five-time Champions League winners are sweating on the fitness of midfielder Gavi and ex-Borussia Mönchengladbach centre-back Andreas Christensen. Defenders Sergi Roberto and Ronald Araujo, meanwhile, are definitely out.
Mane has nine goals and an assist across his first 18 appearances for Bayern.
Musiala is Bayern’s biggest goal threat in 2022/23, with nine goals and eight assists in 16 games.
Bayern are unbeaten in their last 32 Champions League group games (W29, D3) – an on-going competition record.
The six-time European champions have won each of their last 11 group games – including all 10 under Nagelsmann.
Bayern’s last five Champions League games against Barcelona have ended in 3-2 (h), 8-2 (neutral ground), 3-0(a), 3-0 (h) and 2-0 (h) wins.
As well as Lewandowski and Christensen, Barca’s Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund, 50 appearances) and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Gladbach, 127 apps) are former Bundesliga players.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen – Bellerin, Kounde, Alonso, Balde – De Jong, Busquets, Pedri – Dembele, Lewandowski, Fati
Out: Araujo (groin), Depay (thigh), Roberto (shoulder)
Doubtful: Christensen (ankle), Gavi (ankle)
Bayern: Ulreich – Pavard, Upamecano, de Ligt, Davies – Kimmich, Goretzka – Coman, Musiala, Mane – Gnabry
Out: Hernandez (groin), Neuer (shoulder), Sane (thigh), Sarr (knee)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann