Barca reach Berlin showpiece

Barcelona have reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2011 after holding out 5-3 on aggregate over Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique went with an XI which effectively picked itself in Europe, with Marc Andre ter-Stegen back in goal after Claudio Bravo’s spell between the sticks against Real Sociedad. At the back, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba occupied the full-back positions, while Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano partnered each other in central defence.

Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta all returned to form a three-man midfield as Xavi Hernandez and Rafinha were named on the substitutes’ bench, but the ‘MSN’ of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar continued to lead the line.

Bayern, meanwhile, were experiencing their worst run of results under Pep Guardiola, having lost their last four games, yet the Coach stuck with the same team who were comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Camp Nou and experimented with a three-man backline once again.

Remarkably, the match began in similar vein to the first leg, with both sides, as promised by their respective Coaches before kick-off, playing an open brand of football, and it was Bayern who struck first when an unmarked Mehdi Benatia headed home a corner after just seven minutes.

Yet for all of Bayern’s efforts to turn the tie on its head, their defensive frailities were once more exposed as the Catalans pressed forward with speed and intent on the counterattack. From that, Neymar grabbed the equaliser with a tap-in from Suarez’s cut-back.

La Blaugrana then moved ahead just before the half-hour mark. Suarez, playing a key role in his side’s first, left Benatia for dead, raced towards the Bayern box and clipped the ball across goal for the Brazilian to finish off on the half-volley.

Bayern had chances of their own, most of them falling to Robert Lewandowski, but neither he nor his teammates could take them. The best of the bunch saw Ter Stegen somehow scramble a close-range finish from the Pole off the line.

Enrique, with probably one eye on Barca’s crunch La Liga fixture against Atletico Madrid this weekend, hauled off Suarez at half-time and brought on Pedro Rodriguez, and the change seemed to hand Bayern the initiative as the visitors endured a tough 45 minutes.

The Germans are known for their cast-iron efficiency, and their motivation levels showed no signs of abating, despite their eventual failure on the night, Lewandowski capping off an impressive display with beautiful trickery to evade Mascherano and curling a finish into the bottom-right corner.

Muller then fired a second past Ter Stegen to raise unlikely hopes of a turnaround, but the goals proved too little too late as Barca managed to ride the storm and book a first European final in four years, when they defeated Manchester United 3-1 at the Olimpico.

Bayern Munich 3-2 Barcelona (3-5 agg.)

Benatia 7, Lewandowski 59, Muller 74 (BM), Neymar 15, 29 (B)

Bayern Munich: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Benatia, Bernat; Lahm (Rode 68), Alonso; Muller (Gotze 87), Schweinsteiger (Martinez 87), Thiago; Lewandowski

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta (Xavi 75)), Rakitic (Mathieu 72); Messi, Suarez (Pedro 46), Neymar

Referee: Mark Clattenburg [ENG]

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