Great players before a great match. Mirroring FC Barcelona, Munich hosted a press conference featuring coach Julian Nagelsmann and captain Manuel Neuer. Both agreed that not facing Leo Messi will be "strange", but they indicated caution rather than optimism when it comes to this "different” Barça.
Manuel Neuer considers that Barça without Messi "are more unpredictable as the responsibility is shared out more". He went on to emphasise that Barça still have great players and doesn’t consider the current Barça team any weaker than before.
When asked about the 8-2 match in Lisbon two seasons ago, Neuer doesn’t believe many parallels can be drawn: "Those types of games will live long in the memory, but their team has undergone radical change. They have a very new team like us, and we can’t go there relaxed thinking that everything will go well because of that 2-8. That match was like a final; we are now going to play two group stage games."
Messi has left, but Barça have young talents like Frenkie de Jong and Pedri“
Coach Julian Nagelsmann expressed a similar view: "Is the current Barça team stronger or weaker? I would say that the team is different. Messi’s uniqueness and ability to conjure something out of nothing is no longer there, but they have players that may have been in his shadow to some extent. I am referring to players such as Frenkie de Jong or Pedri, who are both very young and very talented. I wouldn’t say Barça are worse now though."
He also mentioned that: "Barça play differently without Messi. Messi always had the ball, everything went through him, and now the responsibility is shared." He also complimented Memphis and explained that Luuk de Jong’s arrival at Barça "could create a new structure."
Both Neuer and Nagelsmann are happy that fans will be there to watch the game and are looking forward to the challenge in the Camp Nou. Nagelsmann summarised his thoughts succinctly: "It’s going to be a great game, in a great stadium, in a great city." The countdown is progressing.