Manchester City vs Barcelona: Champions League Preview
After two failures in consecutive years to go past the group stages of Europe’s elite competition, the Champions League, Manuel Pellegrini’s side now face a daunting task when they take on Barcelona over the two legs, the first being at Etihad on Wednesday night. The Citizens finished runners-up to current Champions, German side Bayern Munich, which resulted in them being paired with four-time winners Barcelona for a place in the quarter-finals of the competition. It by all means seems to be a cynosure of all eyes and is perhaps the most enthralling clashes in the round of sixteen.
City come into the match at the end of a dominating 2-0 win over Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday but will now face the Catalans who are certainly a level higher than any thinkable opponents in Europe. Barcelona too come into the mouth watering encounter after thrashing Rayo Vallecano by half a dozen goals and keeping a clean sheet, meaning they will come to Manchester fearless and in hope to pick up a win from the first leg away from home.
With both team firmly in contention for their respective domestic titles, my view is the Citizens who will be relatively confident going into the encounter against Gerrard ‘Tata’ Martino’s men. Pellegrini’s side accumulated more points than the Catalans in the group stages and despite finishing second in Group D behind Bayern, City were able to beat the German champions and finish on 15 points, two more than what Martino’s men gained in Group H.
What to expect from the match
Pellegrini’s side have failed to win just two of their 20 home games in all competitions this season and have conceded only 18 times in that run. However the Chilean Engineer knows Barcelona will certainly provide a stern test having reached at least the semi-final stage on their last six attempts. I for one feel it will not be those cagey sorts of encounters where both teams play hide and seek and then go for the kill later on. A clash between two free flowing sides means we could see goals galore despite two defenses given orders to play at the highest of their levels.
While Martino has no such injury concerns given Neymar’s return to the side and scoring a spectacular long range effort, it will those frowns on Pellegrini’s fore head which grows by each passing second. The Chilean is without star striker Sergio Aguero and could also miss influential midfielder Fernandinho in the middle of the park. The Brazilian did train with his City team mates on Monday but it remains to be seen if Pellegrini risks him against Barca or opts for Spaniard Javi Garcia alongside former Barcelona man Yaya Toure.
Manchester City: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Richards, Kompany, Demichelis, Lescott, Boyata, Kolarov, Clichy, Nasri, Navas, Silva, Garcia, Toure, Fernandinho, Rodwell, Negredo, Dzeko, Jovetic.
FC Barcelona: Valdés, Pinto, Olazábal, Montoya, Piqué, Fàbregas, Puyol, Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Neymar, Mascherano, Bartra, Sergio, Song, Jordi Alba, Tello, Afellay, Adriano, Dani Alves, Sergi Roberto.
Tough one to call. High scoring draw is possible.