Barcelona’s incomprehensibly talented front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will obviously leave Bavaria tonight receiving the plaudits after another devastating attacking display.
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Their performance was so deadly at times that it’d be understandable if Interpol issued an arrest warrant for first-degree murder.
But in the hubbub, post-match hysteria and debate that is sure to follow over whether this is the ‘best attacking trio ever’, one argument that has surely been settled tonight is who between Marc-Andre ter Stegen or Claudio Bravo – two Barcelona summer signings – should be the club’s fully fledged No. 1.
So far in his tenure as manager, Luis Enrique has elected the popular approach of a ‘cup keeper’ and ‘league keeper’ to keep both egos relatively bruise-free and to keep both players happy with regular game time.
A pragmatic and sensible plan, and one that seems to have paid off, with Bravo conceding an obscenely minuscule 19 goals, and Stegen proving to be more than up for the challenge – and arguably against harder opposition in Europe at least.
But after tonight’s game at the Allianz Arena, Stegen has put down a marker that Bravo must simply match or risk having to concede his position to the German international.
And let’s be clear, this was on a night when Barcelona conceded three goals but the keeper still made the case that he should be the fourth horseman of the Barcelona apocalypse, alongside the aforementioned trio with some quite stunning stops.
His first was an acrobatic swat to keep a looping Thomas Muller header from nestling in the top right corner of his goal.
The next was perhaps the goalkeeping equivalent to Messi’s masterpiece goal in the first leg clash.
The ball broke to Robert Lewandowski free in the box following a deflection off a Muller shot. Not only did he the have to save a thunderous strike from the Pole, but he needed to hurl himself back to the goal-line to scoop away the rebound from trickling in.
Arguably, the 23-year-old could be crowned man-of-the-match on another night, given his stops seem even more crucial, given Bayern’s second half resurgence.
Indeed, Stegen was only beaten when he was ruthlessly exposed by his defence; the first goal an unmarked header from a corner, and the second when Lewandowski bamboozled the Catalan side’s defence and curled a shot firmly into the corner.
And the third was another pin-point finish from Thomas Muller when, again, Barcelona’s back-line seemed to melt away and give the striker all the time in the world.
It has been an intelligent and clever choice by Luis Enrique to prevent a scrap between his two goalkeeping recruits in their respective debut seasons at Barcelona.
But, after a night like tonight, Stegen most definitely has to be given serious consideration for the full-time spot, if not this season, then definitely for the next campaign.