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Barcelona are in unknown territory as UNDERDOGS for Champions League last-eight with Bayern Munich

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barcelona are in unknown territory as underdogs for champions league last eight with bayern munich

As if this Champions League were not strange enough tonight we’ll see something we haven’t seen for well over a decade: Barcelona go into a game as underdogs.

Putting a date on the last time it happened opens a debate. It was maybe 2008 when Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona faced Manchester United in the semi-final and Sir Alex Ferguson’s team won 1-0 on aggregate en-route to winning in Moscow.

A year later Pep Guardiola was Barça’s new young coach and some might have called Bayern Munich favourites when they faced Barcelona in the quarter-finals but Barca beat them 4-0 at the Camp Nou, going through 5-1 on aggregate.

Barcelona, led by Lionel Messi (left), go into Friday's tie versus Bayern Munich as underdogs

Barcelona, led by Lionel Messi (left), go into Friday's tie versus Bayern Munich as underdogs

Barcelona, led by Lionel Messi (left), go into Friday’s tie versus Bayern Munich as underdogs

Barcelona probably haven't been this unfancied since semi-final loss to Man United in 2008

Barcelona probably haven't been this unfancied since semi-final loss to Man United in 2008

Barcelona probably haven’t been this unfancied since semi-final loss to Man United in 2008

In the period since, when they have won the trophy three times it’s difficult to think of a tie they started not as the fancied winners.

The last time they won the European Cup in 2015 they took on Bayern Munich in the semi-finals and beat them 5-3 over two legs. The outstanding individual in both those previous meetings was Lionel Messi.

He produced one of the moments of the history of the tournament in 2015 when he made Jerome Boateng look like he’d taken an invisible punch to the jaw just inside the area.

Messi netted a brilliant solo goal when the two sides met in 2015 - he will be hoping for a repeat

Messi netted a brilliant solo goal when the two sides met in 2015 - he will be hoping for a repeat

Messi netted a brilliant solo goal when the two sides met in 2015 – he will be hoping for a repeat

Messi scored twice in the 2009 game too. If Barça are to win against the odds tonight he will need to be at his best again.

The big difference between now and then is that in ‘09 Messi was joined in attack by Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o who both scored in that 4-0. And in 2015 he had Neymar for company. The Brazilian got the third in the 3-0 win.

On Friday night Luis Suarez will be alongside him, but he is still getting back to full fitness after the knee operation in January that he thought had ruled him out for the rest of the season. And there really is no ‘third man’.

Messi (right) will be hoping for some help up front in the form of striker Luis Suarez (left)

Messi (right) will be hoping for some help up front in the form of striker Luis Suarez (left)

Messi (right) will be hoping for some help up front in the form of striker Luis Suarez (left)

Antoine Griezmann is the willing volunteer. He has scored important goals this season but coach Quique Setien might not even start him. 

Earlier in the week the messages coming out of the Barcelona camp seemed to suggest it would be Artur Vidal as an extra man in midfield at Griezmann’s expense. 

‘Extra muscle for Bayern’ read one headline. That was another sign of the changing times – a Barcelona team picked to deal with the opponent’s threat. 

Early team news suggests Artur Vidal (right) will start in place of Antoine Griezmann (left)

Early team news suggests Artur Vidal (right) will start in place of Antoine Griezmann (left)

Early team news suggests Artur Vidal (right) will start in place of Antoine Griezmann (left)

That would never have happened when they were in their pomp under Pep and later Luis Enrique.

Messi at least is fit despite training this week with strapping on the ankle kicked by Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly in the last-16 second leg.

He got them past the Italian side, winning the corner for the first, scoring the second and winning the penalty for the third goal in the 3-1 win.

A good performance from Messi could ease the pressure on coach Quique Setien (right)

A good performance from Messi could ease the pressure on coach Quique Setien (right)

A good performance from Messi could ease the pressure on coach Quique Setien (right)

‘Without the strength of the team Leo will be less effective,’ said Setien on Thursday night. Some saw that as him talking down Messi’s importance. It seemed more like him trying to talk up the role of some of the supporting cast who will need to raise their game to support the lead tonight.

Bayern are on a run of 26 wins and one draw in their last 27 games. Their favourite status against a Barcelona side who came back after lockdown on top of La Liga but then drew three and lost one of their last 11 games and so were overtaken by Champions Real Madrid who dropped only two points.

So far speed and intensity have ruled in Lisbon. Leipzig played a million a miles an hour to get past Atletico last night. Atalanta did likewise 24 hours earlier and Paris Saint Germain had to match their rhythm to beat them.

Bayern Munich are in relentless form at the moment, having won 26 out of their last 27 games

Bayern Munich are in relentless form at the moment, having won 26 out of their last 27 games

Bayern Munich are in relentless form at the moment, having won 26 out of their last 27 games

Robert Lewandowski's been in potent form all season and will be a big danger to Barcelona

Robert Lewandowski's been in potent form all season and will be a big danger to Barcelona

Robert Lewandowski’s been in potent form all season and will be a big danger to Barcelona

Barcelona have not played with that pace for a while now. Even when they beat Liverpool 3-0 last season at the Camp Nou, Messi and Suarez were doubled over catching their breath midway through the game, struggling against Liverpool’s high tempo.

Barcelona have Ousmane Dembele back six months after an operation on a hamstring tendon but he has not played for nine months and it is a big ask for him to step forward and find his old Borussia Dortmund form against the German Champions.

Suarez, Griezmann and possibly 17-year-old Ansu Fati off the bench will be there to help him but the weight of expectation will be on Messi’s shoulders.

He is used to it. If he can carry the weight of Argentina then he can do the same for Barcelona. His detractors say he doesn’t deliver for Argentina and that he can’t be considered the best ever without a World Cup.

This Champions League feels like a World Cup. Messi lifting the European Cup a week Sunday wont match it, but it will come close, and even more so achieved in a team of ‘plucky underdogs’.

The weight of Barcelona's expectations are weighing very much on the shoulders of Messi

The weight of Barcelona's expectations are weighing very much on the shoulders of Messi

The weight of Barcelona’s expectations are weighing very much on the shoulders of Messi

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Huddersfield agree £1million fee with Benfica for former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock

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huddersfield agree 1million fee with benfica for former arsenal youngster chris willock

Huddersfield have agreed a fee with Benfica for former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock.

Winger Willock, 22, spent the second half of last season on loan at Huddersfield who now want to make the move permanent.

They have agreed a package with the Portuguese club in the region of £1m though have yet to agree personal terms with Willock.

Huddersfield have agreed a fee with Benfica for former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock

Huddersfield have agreed a fee with Benfica for former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock

Huddersfield have agreed a fee with Benfica for former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock

The 22-year-old came through the Arsenal ranks before leaving for Portugal in 2017

The 22-year-old came through the Arsenal ranks before leaving for Portugal in 2017

The 22-year-old came through the Arsenal ranks before leaving for Portugal in 2017

Willock, who played for England from under-16 through to under-20 level, made 14 appearances for Huddersfield, including eight starts, scoring twice.

And he has attracted attention from a number of clubs this summer including Rangers, Derby, QPR and Bournemouth who are also monitoring his situation as Huddersfield attempt to wrap up a deal.

Willock is the brother of current Arsenal midfielder Joe, 21, and Gillingham midfielder Matty, 24, with all three starting out in the Gunners‘ youth ranks.

Huddersfield have agreed a £1m fee to make their loan star's stay permanent this season

Huddersfield have agreed a £1m fee to make their loan star's stay permanent this season

Huddersfield have agreed a £1m fee to make their loan star’s stay permanent this season

Chris made two first team appearances in the League Cup in 2016 before being snapped up by Benfica the following summer, making 64 appearances for their B-team in Portugal’s second tier, scoring 14 times and recording nine assists.

Willock began last season on loan at West Brom before joining Huddersfield in January.

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Luis Suarez ‘TERMINATES his contract at Barcelona’

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luis suarez terminates his contract at barcelona

Luis Suarez has finally sealed his acrimonious exit from Barcelona after reportedly agreeing a termination of his contract.

Despite long-term interest from Juventus it appears that Atletico Madrid is the next destination for the Uruguayan striker, according to Spanish outlet RAC

And the anticipated departure of Suarez will lead to Atletico shifting on former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who will now return to Juventus on loan.

Luis Suarez has reportedly agreed a termination of his contract with Barcelona

Luis Suarez has reportedly agreed a termination of his contract with Barcelona

Luis Suarez has reportedly agreed a termination of his contract with Barcelona

Alvaro Morata is now looking likely to leave Atletico Madrid and return to Juventus

Alvaro Morata is now looking likely to leave Atletico Madrid and return to Juventus

Alvaro Morata is now looking likely to leave Atletico Madrid and return to Juventus

Suarez had been widely expected to make the move to Juventus after new Barca boss Ronald Koeman made it clear that he did not feature in his plans.

Suarez passed an Italian exam in Perugia last week in order to acquire dual nationality with Juve unable to bring in any more non-EU players in this transfer window following the arrivals of Arthur Melo and Weston McKennie.

The 33-year-old was facing an anxious wait for a passport to be approved ahead of the transfer window closing on October 5, and Andrea Pirlo admitted at the weekend the transfer would be ‘difficult’. 

According to Italian outlet Gazzette dello Sport, the new Juventus boss said: ‘Suarez is difficult because the times to get a passport are long, it is complicated that [our new striker] can be him.’ 

Suarez had appeared destined to go to Juventus but could now go to Atletico Madrid

Suarez had appeared destined to go to Juventus but could now go to Atletico Madrid

Suarez had appeared destined to go to Juventus but could now go to Atletico Madrid

Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo said 'it will be difficult' for him to make the move this month

Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo said 'it will be difficult' for him to make the move this month

Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo said ‘it will be difficult’ for him to make the move this month

The breakdown in his move to Juve has allowed Atletico to swoop in, with Diego Simeone looking to pair Suarez with Diego Costa up front.

The move will see Morata head for pastures new once more.

The Spaniard spent two seasons at Juve between 2014 and 2016 and was part of the side that reached the Champions League final in 2015. 

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Transfer news LIVE: Dele Alli to PSG LATEST, Lingard £30m Tottenham interest, Real Madrid in Bale dig

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transfer news live dele alli to psg latest lingard 30m tottenham interest real madrid in bale dig

GARETH BALE has secured a sensational return to Tottenham, with Sergio Reguilon also moving to North London from Real Madrid.

Meanwhile Jose Mourinho had reportedly hoped to send Dele Alli the other way, but Los Blancos rejected a loan move. PSG are now believed to be the frontrunners.

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