MUNICH – Players and fans were on Tuesday preparing for the Champions League semi-finals, with Bayern Munich and Barcelona going head-to-head in the most anticipated tie in the last four of Europe’s leading club competition.
Barcelona supporters had already begun milling around Bayern’s Allianz Arena stadium on Monday — a full 24 hours before kick-off — in a desperate hunt for tickets with the game long sold out.
The match has been billed as the battle of the top teams in the German and Spanish leagues, with Bayern confirmed champions a fortnight ago and Barca on course for their 22nd Liga title.
Bayern’s agonising home defeat on penalties in last year’s Champions League final to Chelsea has added extra flavour to the tie, giving added impetus to the Bavarian giants as they seek the European trophy for the first time since 2001.
In addition, the result is not a foregone conclusion, with Bayern’s Spain midfielder Javi Martinez and Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez both rating each team’s chances of victory as “50:50″.
“It’s going to be a football feast,” enthused Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, with his team bidding to reach their third final in four years with the return leg in Barcelona on May 1.
“The whole anticipation about this is huge, it’s a big task for us, that’s clear, but these are two top teams who play similar football.
“It’s not just the teams who are looking forward to this, it’s everything for the fans as well.”
The Spanish giants are bidding to win the European Cup for the fifth time, having lifted the Champions League trophy in both 2009 and 2011.
Bayern were boosted going into the game when arch rivals Borussia Dortmund — who take on Real Madrid at home on Wednesday — announced that upcoming star Mario Goetze will be moving to Munich on a deal worth a reported 37 million euros ($48.2 million, £32 million).
The 20-year-old’s first day at the club will be July 1 — the same day ex-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola takes over as Bayern coach and his arrival will further boost Munich’s star-studded midfield.
The timing of the news also distracts from the German media scandal surrounding Bayern president Uli Hoeness after it emerged he is under investigation for tax evasion, prompting criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.