Cologne - When FC Bayern München mastermind Pep Guardiola left FC Barcelona in the summer of 2012, he must have known that he would one day return to the club he called home for nigh-on 30 years man and boy.

The fact that homecoming is about to come in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League only adds to the hype of a two-legged contest already bursting at the seams with subplots.

Barca through and through

Barcelona's prototypical La Masia academy graduate amassed 16 winners medals as a player, before turning his hand to management in 2007, having seen out the remainder of his days as one of football's most diligent midfield generals at AS Roma, Brescia Calcio, Al Ahli SC and Dorados de Sinaloa.

In his first season in charge of Barcelona B, the Catalonia native secured promotion to the second tier via the play-offs. Barca's seniors, meanwhile, had finished third, an unthinkable 18 points adrift of 2007/08 La Liga champions Real Madrid CF. Change was afoot and Guardiola was the man to lead the revolution.


Parting company with the likes of Ronaldinho and Deco whilst promoting homegrown talents such as Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez to the first team, the former Johan Cruyff disciple steered the club to their first league title since 2006 in his debut campaign at the helm.

Meticulous pre-match planning, rigourous man management and a possession-based pressing game - the likes of which had scarcely been performed with such precision and efficiency - also brought further success as Barcelona's class of 2008/09 became the first Spanish side in history to win the league, Copa Del Rey and Champions League treble.

From one great to another

Victory in the Spanish Supercup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club ensured Barca ended 2009 with an unprecedented six trophies to their name. They went on to win, amongst others, another two La Liga titles and the 2011/12 Champions League, before Guardiola announced his decision to call time on a four-year tenure of unparalleled achievement in May 2012.

Following a one-year sabbatical, football's most sought-after tactician returned to the dugout, charged with taking a Bayern outfit that had just scooped a treble of their own under Jupp Heynckes to the next level. His former Barcelona protégé Thiago Alcantara would provide the centre piece for the remould, and while five trophies in under two seasons as boss marks a healthy return, there is a strong belief that Guardiola's legacy in the Bavarian capital will be measured by his success in the Champions League.

Defining match-up

Bayern were beaten comprehensively in the 2013/14 semi-finals by eventual winners Real Madrid, losing 5-0 on aggregate. Save a 3-1 quarter-final first leg defeat to FC Porto, their progress in this season's competition has been serene and, at times, emphatic. Only Guardiola's alma mater stand in the way of a third final in five years.

La Liga vs. the Bundesliga, Lionel Messi vs. Thiago, Luis Enrique vs. Guardiola and creation vs. creator: No one knows Barcelona better than the Santpedor-born strategist and the onus has to be on him to deliver his most meticulous game plan yet. If he can do that against the team he crafted into one of the best of their generation, Bayern - for all their high-profile absentees - will be laughing.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge