Three things we learned as brilliant Bayern humble ageing Barcelona again

It is inevitable Bayern will now be installed as out-and-out favourites to win the Champions League after despatching Barcelona in such emphatic fashion
Three things we learned as brilliant Bayern humble ageing Barcelona again
Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's sixth goal at the Luz stadium in Lisbon. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez/Pool)

Bayern’s unfathomable potential makes them huge favourites

The skill, energy, and ferocious attacking intent of this Bayern side is so remarkable, so enjoyable, that it is inevitable they will now be installed as out-and-out favourites to win the Champions League after despatching Barcelona in such emphatic fashion.

All eight goals were a joy to watch but their fifth, at a time when Barca thought they may have earned a foothold in the match, summed up just about everything you want to see from an outstanding football team. The pace, skill and trickery from 19-year-old left-back Alphonso Davies was breathtaking, the finish from Joshua Kimmich inevitable, and the speed of it all exhilarating.

Manchester City and Lyon, their potential semi-final opponents will be shaking, and it’s hard to see Paris St Germain or Red Bull Leipzig getting anywhere near them if the Bavarians reach the final. They look irresistable.

High press is football’s new king

It has taken clubs a long time to find the antidote to Barcelona’s legendary tiki taka football but 11 years after Pep Guardiola won the Champions League in his first season as Barca coach, the high press has taken its throne.

Liverpool used the tactic to devastating effect as they overcame Manchester City to win the Premier League title by a huge margin this year and now Bayern have humiliated Barcelona in the same way.

By the time the German side had scored four — and that took only 31 minutes — it was almost impossible to remember how many times Barca had given the ball away, hassled and harried into mistake after mistake by Bayern’s marauding forwards.

It isn’t the first time the Catalan giants have been humbled — there was also that 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the Champions League last season in which they were bulldozered by the Anfield front three — but it was worse than they have ever experienced before.

So, is playing out obsessively from the back in the face of an intense press obsolete? Or is it simply that a legendary team has passed its peak and was consequently well beaten by an outstanding opponent? You suspect the latter, but there’s no doubt that Bayern’s high-octane style shows football’s tactical direction of travel.

Is this the end of an era?

At an average of 29 years and 329 days, this was the oldest ever Barcelona side to start a Champions League match; and oh who it showed as they were totally humiliated There have been plenty of teams in the past who have proved the value of experience – Jose Mourinho’s Champions League-winning Inter Milan team of 2010, which beat Bayern in the final with a team averaging 29 years and 219 days, springs to mind.

But football has got quicker in the last 10 years and Barca’s veterans couldn’t cope with the power, energy and movement of Bayern’s forwards on a night when they were humbled. And having also lost the La Liga title to Real Madrid, it’s time for a rebuild — one which will begin with the departure of much-lambasted coach Quique Setien.

The re-fit won’t be easy to complete, however, because even now Barcelona’s oldest players are also their best. Messi, Vidal, Suarez and Piquet are all 33, Busquets is 32 and Alba 31. To jettison all those players in one go would be crazy, but nothing can be ruled out right now. The balance isn’t right, the spirit isn’t right, and it would be a major surprise if Barcelona didn’t target youthful pace and energy — especially in defence — in what remains of the transfer window. They also need a world class goalkeeper to replace Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who gave the ball away with such alarming regularity here. This was a moment in Barcelona’s history which will never be forgotten — and it will result in big changes.

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