Exclusive Interview with Toni Padilla (Part I)

Toni Padilla, Catalan journalist who is chief sports editor for Catalan newspaper ARA and co-editor of the excellent Spanish football magazine Panenka, talked to the Bundesliga Fanatic about Barcelona’s upcoming Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich.  

Bundesliga Fanatic: What was the reaction by fans and media in Barcelona to have Bayern as a semi-final opponent?

Toni Padilla: At first, people were really worried because everyone wanted to play against Dortmund, especially after the quarter-final against PSG and Barça’s poor performance. Barça looked tired and lacked ideas, having lost their spark and not playing their best football. Before the PSG match, Barça were not favourites to win the trophy so people were really worried. People were hoping to play the semi-final against Dortmund, but since it didn’t turn out like that, it was a worrying moment.

BF: Do you think that the fact that they wanted to play against Dortmund is due to the difference in level between Bayern and Dortmund? Is Bayern really that much better than Dortmund in Europe?

TP: I don’t know if we can talk about the difference in level as Borussia Dortmund have shown that they can play some really good football. I think it’s about experience. For example, we remember Borussia Dortmund playing in the group games against Real Madrid and they played some really good football, fantastic games both at the Westfalenstadion and at the Santiago Bernabéu. However, against Málaga they looked like a young side, a brilliant side, but lacking experience, and it turned out to be a tough time for such a young side. If we look at the four teams remaining in the competition, Madrid have the experience, Bayern have the experience, Barça have the experience but Dortmund don’t. Perhaps that is why people would have preferred to have drawn Dortmund, also because they didn’t put in their best performance against MálagaBayern crushed Juventus and showed that they are a fantastic team and also showed that they are physically very strong, whereas Barcelona aren’t strong at the moment in the physical department. Taking all of this into consideration, that is why Barça fans preferred to play Dortmund.

BF: Barcelona are not playing as well as we have seen them play before, from a journalistic point of view and trying to be as objective as possible, what do you think that Barça’s chances are of going through to the final, also taking into consideration Bayern’s current form?

TP: They obviously have a lot of options to make it to the final as it’s only two games. Pep Guardiola used to say that when you are in the semi-finals, you cannot talk about your physical state or if you’re tired; at this point you just have to go for it. Obviously Bayern look better every year than the last. They look a lot stronger, they have more players, they have experience… so right now, for Bayern, it’s a big chance for them, a great opportunity to knock Barcelona out. The chances that Barcelona have to win obviously lie with Leo Messi. If we remember the game against Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou, he was playing tired and injured but his presence on the field scared the French defenders. He is the best player in the world so if Messi can make the match (he’s currently battling for full fitness. Ed.), Barça will have more options. The other idea is how they have been working these last few weeks. They had a lot of problems and looked really tired against PSG but two weeks in football is a long time; now they are looking a lot brighter, so if they can recover physically they will have more options to knock Bayern out.

 

The main difference between Bayern and Dortmund in the Champions League isn’t quality; it’s experience.

 

BF: What is the general image that people from Barcelona and Catalonia have of Bayern München?

TP: A lot of respect. German football has always been highly respected in Catalonia and Barcelona. However, it’s true that people do remember the last time that both sides met and Guardiola’s Barcelona thrashed Klinsmann’s Bayern. Now, everyone knows that Bayern are a really professional side and in the last few months we have listened to a lot and read a lot about Bayern München because of Pep Guardiola’s future. When people talk about Bayern, people talk about a club that you can only play for if you’re a winner, if you have the right mentality and the ability to do so, only for the most important players in the world. Therefore, there’s a lot of respect for this team. When you talk about Bayern here, you talk about football, it’s just about that. They are one of the most important football teams in Europe and are highly respected. Perhaps Paris Saint-Germain were not respected as much and Milan were too but not as much as Bayern, since they were enduring one of the darkest moments in their history. However, when we talk about Bayern, it’s all about respect.

BF: This respect obviously comes because they are a team with a lot of history but also because they have some great players. Who would you say are the most dangerous players for Bayern in regards as to how they can hurt this Barça team from a tactical or physical point of view?

TP: Obviously Heynckes has an incredible side and a lot of good players but I would say the forwards and the support of the midfielders can make the difference for Bayern, as Barcelona are having a lot of problems with defenders. Adriano is suspended, Mascherano and Puyol are injured… even though Mandžukić is suspended too. The role of Javi Martínez and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be key as they can make the difference by pressuring and pushing Barça’s defence. Then you also have the fast players who try to find spaces, such as Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben. We’ll have to see how Bayern play, especially without Toni Kroos, as he he can be really important to the team as he showed in the match at the Emirates Stadium (Bayern won 1-3 and Kroos scored. Ed.) when Bayern want to play having the ball. The important thing however is how can Bayern play without the ball, how they can find the space in the Barcelona defence and here is where the role of Thomas Müller and Franck Ribéry will come into play.

You can follow Toni on Twitter at @Toni_Padilla and Panenka at @proyectopanenka.

You can read the second part of the interview on Bundesliga Fanatic tomorrow or listen to all of it on this week’s Bundesliga Fanatic Podcast

Header courtesy of ARA.cat

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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