FC Bayern München completed a remarkable and record setting 7-0 aggregate win over FC Barcelona to reach their second consecutive Champions League final. Goals from Arjen Robben, an own goal by Gerard Piqué and a Thomas Müller header saw the record German champions 3-0 winners on the night in another seismic victory against the "best side in the world."
With last week's startling result just starting to sink in, Bayern München travelled to Spain knowing they would be facing domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final after Tuesday night's drama, if they could stop Barcelona from having arguably the greatest European evening in the history of football. It seemed unlikely that anyone could stop Bayern reaching their third Champions League final in four years.
With so much at stake, Jupp Heynckes' selection was key. Incredibly Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez, Luiz Gustavo, Dante and Mario Gomez were all one yellow away from a devastating Champions League final suspension. Schweinsteiger said before the game, "If it happens, it happens." Brave words from a man who's form suggests redemption is his motivation. Bearing that in mind, Heynckes left only Dante on the bench, trusting the aforementioned others. For Barcelona, Lionel Messi was deemed not fit enough to start. This time, Tito Vilanova recognised the need for his team to be fluid rather than his star to be on the pitch.
Knowing what they needed to do, Barca were surprisingly passive in the opening ten minutes and Bayern looked the more likely, despite the lack of chances. High pressing was causing Barca the same rhythmic issues that it did in Munich as the time sapped away from the home team. Arjen Robben broke away on the right wing after a perfectly timed run but, bearing down on goal, failed to shoot quickly enough and Pique got back in time.
Unlike Tuesday night, the opening quarter of an hour flew by. Dani Alves was put through on the right-hand side but just like Bayern's Flying Dutchman, his hesitation killed the move. Bayern were looking mature. Barca still had the same disbelief that they wouldn't progress hanging over them. A great block by Pique again denied Bayern the opening goal and effectively, the end of the competition.
Inspiration is what they needed and without their Argentinean magician, Pedro nearly provided it with a long-range fizzing effort. Manuel Neuer was on hand to palm over though. Vilanova's men were being countered easily but that was a risk they had to take. It would only be one worth taking if they were the first to strike. A good ball into the box saw Xavi violently volley over as half an hour came and went without a goal.
It felt even more uncomfortable for Barcelona than when Inter Milan visited under the leadership of Jose Mourinho in 2010. Bayern were in complete control and with every passing minute, the thought of Barcelona turning the tie around sounded more and more ridiculous.
Adriano fired in a low long-range effort but it was less of a shot and more of a Schüsschen as Barca's first half seemed to peter out along with their European dreams. Those dreams were ridiculed, ransacked and ultimately reduced to nothing when four minutes after the restart Robben cut in and curled an effort into the top corner.
It was a goal that sat Messi back down. At the same time, the world looked towards Wembley and the all-German final it would now be hosting. The game had turned into what Spanish fans had feared and yet probably known would happen as Bayern played with the confidence of a side that had both their feet in the final.
So did Bastian Schweinsteiger when he left the field in the 66th minute to be replaced by Luiz Gustavo. The heartbeat of Bayern hadn't committed a single foul. Bayern had been professional and concentrated to a man. Both Jerome Boateng and Daniel van Buyten had dealt with the somewhat tepid threat of the home side comfortably, proving that there are no passengers in this exceptional team.
There was seemingly nothing left to say but as they have done all season, Bayern wanted more. Pique inadvertently smashed the ball into his own net off his knee but even that wasn't enough of an embarrassment. Ribery provided another cross, this one better placed, and the ever-present Thomas Müller headed in past a flapping Valdes at the near post. 3-0 on the night and astoundingly 7-0 on aggregate. In between all of this, Heynckes rewarded his unflappable protagonists that were under a suspension threat with a substitution. It was tactical perfection on so many levels.
Bayern face Dortmund this weekend in the league. It could be viewed as a psychological prelude to the Champions League final but with the league already won and Bayern already in the cup final, Dortmund know they can afford to wait until London before they try and spoil the coveted treble celebrations. There is no denying that this is the year of the Bundesliga but we will have to wait until May 25th to see if it's a red or a yellow one.
FC Barcelona: Valdes - Alves, Pique, Bartra (87' Montoya), Adriano - Xavi (55' Sanchez), Song, Iniesta (65' Thiago Alcantara) - Villa, Fabregas, Pedro
FC Bayern München: Neuer - Lahm (77' Rafinha), Boateng, van Buyten, Alaba - Schweinsteiger (66' Luiz Gustavo), Javi Martinez (74' Tymoshchuk) - Robben, Müller, Ribery - Mandzukic
Goals: 0-1 Robben (49'), 0-2 Pique (73' o.g.), 0-3 Müller (77')
Referee: Damir Skomina