Cologne - FC Bayern Munich play host to FC Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final on Tuesday with one overriding problem to solve, even given the visitors' all-encompassing football excellence: just how do you neutralise Lionel Messi?

Ahead of the heavyweight clash at the , posed that very question, among others, to Spanish journalist and Primera Division expert Miguel Gutierrez. Miguel Gutierrez, a simple question for starters: How do you stop Lionel Messi?

Miguel Gutierrez: I've a simple answer as well - there's no formula for it! How to teams go about it in the Spanish league - do they all assign Messi his own special cover?

Gutierrez: There's hardly any sense in trying to man-mark Messi. He's so fast and keeps the ball so close to his feet that his opponent barely has a chance to get it off him. Having a terrier snapping at his heels is a waste of time. So what strategy might be more successful?

Gutierrez: Messi likes to go one-on-one against opponents and in those direct duels there's a bit more of a possibility of nicking the ball off him, especially if you can close down his space. But that's easier said than done, too, because he's in perpetual motion all over the pitch. How about a more physical approach?

Gutierrez: Obviously a lot of opponents try to foul him. But what's the point in picking up an early booking and then having to hold back in all your subsequent challenges? On top of that, committing a bad foul on Messi instantly makes you public enemy number one. Like Tomas Ujfalusi, the former Hamburger SV defender, who injured Messi's ankle playing for Atletico Madrid in 2010. Or Real Madrid's Pepe, when he trod on his hand. Talking of Real - what approach do they take against Messi when they cross swords in el Clasico?

Gutierrez: The central defenders, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, usually take turns marking him, depending on where he is on the pitch. How would you describe a typical attacking move from Messi?

Gutierrez: Messi likes to be fed the ball in the channel between the defenders, or to play himself in there with a quick one-two. And then he'll deliver the finish with incredible speed and precision, he's got a sensational feel for the ball. Why does Messi shine with such regularity for Barcelona, but far less often for Argentina?

Gutierrez: A world-class player needs other world-class players around him. He has that at Barcelona, with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. What was the general reaction in Spain to the way the semi-finals came out of the pot?

Gutierrez: Very positive, because a lot of people want to see an all-Spanish final. Borussia Dortmund would have been the opponents of choice for both clubs, they're viewed as a slightly easier challenge. But there's still plenty of respect there for Dortmund And how are Bayern Munich viewed in Spain?

Gutierrez: Bayern are regarded as the third great European club, alongside Barca and Real. And they're rated even more highly this year than last, when they reached the Champions League final. Javier Martinez's move to Munich has given the tie an added Spanish angle as well. Just to round things off, the Spanish press refer to FC Bayern as la bestia negra. What's behind that?

Gutierrez: A Spanish journalist coined the phrase after Bayern had won, yet again, in Madrid. Bestia negra - black beast - is a reference to the perceived creeping fear Real have of Bayern. It's only used in the context of games between those two, though - it doesn't apply when it's Barcelona against Bayern.

Interview: Stefan Kusche