5 talking points as Bayern Munich expose Barcelona's shortcomings without Lionel Messi

By Colin Millar

The standout encounter of the opening night of Champions League action saw Barcelona host Bayern Munich in a clash between two of European football’s heavyweight clubs.

The clash came just 13 months after the last meeting between the two sides, when Bayern humiliated the Catalan giants with an 8-2 victory at the quarter-final stage of the competition.

Despite significant upheaval at Barca in the time since, six of those starters from that defeat were in Ronald Koeman’s XI for tonight’s match at the Camp Nou.

Tuesday night saw another comfortable win for the German champions - although not by the same six-goal margin - to show that the chasm between the clubs is as great as ever.

Here are the five main talking points from the clash.

Robert Lewandowski netted twice as Bayern Munich defeated Barcelona (REUTERS)

Majestic Musiala

Jamal Musiala once again showed that, despite his lack of experience, he is right at home at this stage and put in a peerless performance in Bayern’s attack.

Aged just 18, the midfielder has already bagged 11 goals at first-team level for Bayern Munich including four in just six appearances this season - and is now a Germany senior international.

Musiala is already being seen as the player who got away for both Chelsea and England, whom he represented at Under-21 level, and is already one of Bayern’s most important players.

He was comfortable on the ball, finding space and teammates with a combination of clever movement and pinpoint passes.

Musiala appears to be a fixture in Bayern’s strongest side.

Lethal Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski has scored at least once in 18 games in a row for Bayern Munich (Alejandro Garcia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Robert Lewandowski scored, of course he scored. Twice, in fact. That is now 18 games in a row for Bayern Munich in which the Poland international has found the back of the net.

Last season he broke Gerd Muller’s Bundesliga goal scoring record with a mind-boggling 41 strikes in just 28 league starts.

Now aged 33, Lewandowski is ageing like a fine wine and there is no deadlier finisher in European football - do not bet against him to top the scoring charts in this season’s competition.

His finish was typically instinctive, following up after a teammate’s effort had rattled the post.

Lewandowski was absent through injury when Bayern were defeated by Paris Saint-Germain last season but if he stays fit this season, they will be hard to stop.

Different coach, same Bayern

Hansi Flick stylishly and effectively led Bayern Munich to the Champions League title in 2020 to critical acclaim.

It was a tour de force of management as his Bayern side were the best side by a distance in Europe by any reasonable measure.

There was a natural regression last season with the exit to PSG - coming amidst a particularly damaging injury crisis for the club - and he has now taken the reins at the German national team.

Julian Nagelsmann is the new man in the dugout having impressed during his stints with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, but it is evolution rather than revolution.

Bayern are still the high-pressing, attack-minded, relentless unit that they have been in recent years and are still very much at home in Europe’s leading clubs - they still have a level to find after this.

No Messi, no party

Memphis Depay struggled to impress on a bad night for Barcelona (REUTERS)

This was Barcelona’s first Champions League match since the departure of Lionel Messi and so tame was their performance, they did not manage a shot on target throughout the game.

Yes they were without Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati, but this was a side deprived of any creativity or any genuine goal scoring threat.

Yes their opponents were Bayern Munich and yes Barca are still likely to progress through this group, but they are now a notably long way from Europe’s very best sides.

Memphis Depay was not effective in attack while new signing Luuk de Jong - whilst offering a certain skillset - embodied the decline of the club in recent years.

It often appeared that de Jong was running through treacle due to his lack of mobility and it allowed Bayern to play a high defensive line without fear of being punished.

Barca are definitely not contenders to win the competition on this evidence, with their realistic ambitions scaled down to progression through the groups.

Youth given a chance

The mass exodus from Barcelona in recent years has seen the squad slimmed of peripheral figures and naturally, the promotion of more youth talents.

It remains to be seen how many have a long-term future in the first-team - although Pedri and Ansu Fati are Spanish football’s two outstanding prospects - but teenagers Pablo Gavira, Yusuf Demir and Alejandro Balde all ended the game, alongside La Masia graduate Oscar Mingueza.

It may now bear fruit this season, but there are talented players coming through the ranks.

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