Created on 06-04-2009 at 00:00 AM
Philipp Lahm might be expected to tremble just a little on thinking of Barcelona. His sole appearance at Camp Nou to date, some three seasons ago, ended in a 4-0 Bayern defeat. However, the defender was typically ebullient and upbeat on the eve of Munich’s return to the famous ground: “It’s one of the best stadiums anywhere, with a fantastic atmosphere. You really look forward to these games, it’s why you’re a footballer.”
The defeat back then was easily dismissed, as it was ‘only’ for the annual pre-season Juan Gamper Cup between the home team and an invited overseas club. Lahm came on as a sub with the outcome already sealed, but far more is at stake on Wednesday evening in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Focus on Barca
“We’ve not faced any of the really big names yet, but now we’ve drawn the top favourites for the trophy. It’s our chance to show how far we’ve come on the international stage,” said Lahm, consigning last Saturday’s 5-1 Bundesliga defeat in Wolfsburg to history. “We’re looking forwards, and that means focusing on Barcelona.”
For the Germany stalwart, the clash with arguably the best club side in the world at the moment presents a truly stern challenge, as the left-back will come face-to-face with Lionel Messi, arguably the best forward in the world game. “He’s incredibly tough to control, because he dribbles at such pace. It’ll be a huge ask,” Lahm acknowledged.
However, the man who is arguably one of the best full-backs in the world is far from cowed. “I’m similar to him, very nimble. I do a lot of things instinctively,” he declared. Lahm has set his sights high for the confrontation with Messi: “A player who’s already scored six goals in the Champions League needs to be shut out as far as possible. I’m aiming to win every challenge against him.”
United show the way
If Lahm even comes close to hitting his target, Bayern stand a decent chance of leaving Camp Nou with a respectable result. However, Lahm versus Messi is not the only key contest. “The entire team has to work defensively. We need to keep it at 0-0 for as long as possible, and then see if we can pick a way through at their end,” the Munich-born star remarked.
Lahm’s vision is based on Manchester United’s successful tactics in last season’s semi-finals. United went to Barcelona for the first leg and ground out a goalless draw, before winning the return 1-0 at Old Trafford. “I remember precisely the way Manchester did it last year. They pulled everyone back and hardly allowed Barcelona any chances,” Lahm recalled: “If we do that, we’re in with a shout.”