Manchester City v Barcelona
UEFA Champions League
Tuesday 18th February 2014, 7.45pm KO
Live on ITV1
For some City supporters this game is the moment of a lifetime just 15 years removed from the week when City faced another game of significance when goals from Shaun Goater and Gareth Taylor were enough to see off Macclesfield Town at Maine Road in front of 31,086.as they chased a swift return to the second tier of English football.
Today the greatest team of a generation, maybe ever, is turning up as FC Barcelona arrives in Manchester for a vital Champions League clash. Unfortunately for Barcelona’s manager Gerardo Martino, the team bus won’t be taking them from the airport to Old Trafford to face a team of ageing fading stars and the comfort of an easy route to the quarter finals but will be taking the Spanish Champions to the Etihad Stadium to face a team competing to become the greatest English side in the history of the game. Even ITV couldn’t avoid showing us for the first this season (in the Champions League).
The Opposition – Barcelona
So what do you say about Barcelona that hasn’t already been covered extensively? For this I will hand over to Sid Lowe, the English speaking authority on Spanish football from his web chat on the Guardian website this afternoon.
Sid on if Barcelona are as good as they have been (based on Mourinho’s latest bile)
“I suppose we have to start by defining ‘many, many years’. this Barcelona is not the Barcelona of 2010 but it is certainly not the worst Barcelona for many, many years … they collapsed in 2007 and 2008 for example and pre-Rijkaard/Laporta/Ronaldinho was a proper shambles, with crisis after crisis. That said, this is a season in which there have been serious doubts about Barcelona’s style, about the way they have played (even if results have largely been good), and about where the go from here.”
“This is also, I suppose, the Barcelona (up to a point, albeit wih different manager etc) that lost 7-0 on aggregate against Bayern last year … the problem for Mourinho there is that the Barcelona that lost 7-0 to Bayern, and had started to lose more often to Madrid in direct confrontations, is also the Barcelona that won the league last season, finishing 15 points ahead of Real Madrid.”
“There are, as I say, significant doubts about Barcelona still … but they look a bit better now than they did when the draw was made, that’s for sure.”
Sid on how he thinks City will try and exploit a weakness in Barca’s defence;
“Although there has to be a sense of HOW they are going to attack them. It’s been interesting listening to City’s (Spanish) players talking about attacking them in the air and from set plays. Barcelona’s response has always been to avoid giving away free kicks, corners, etc … but it is very, very hard to eliminate that altogether.”
Barca on Pellegrini’s possible tactics;
“I think there’s a sligt mythology about Pellegrini and not parking the bus … it’s more that the defensive work will be done in possession … if you watch Villarreal and Malaga’s ChLg campaigns, they were not winning 5-4 and losing 5-4 … that said, of course City is a different proposition.”
So what do we know? There is no Aguero or Nastasic as they are both injured and Milner is suspended whilst Fernandinho and Edin Dzeko will face late fitness tests (source: physioroom.com).
Pellegrini has stated in his pre-match interviews that it’ll be the same team as normal but if there is one thing that we know about modern football is that why would you give away your plans pre-match. Pellegrini will make the plan tactically to decide whether he will try and take the game to Barcelona or flood midfield and deny space to the opposition but what side will he pick?
In defence Hart, Zabaleta and Kompany are locks and with Nastasic injured will have to make the choice between Demechelis or Lescott and between Kolarov or Clichy. If its me I would pick Lescott as he reads the game well defensively and is a lot more solid defensively even if he doesn’t give us what Pellegrini wants when his centre backs are in possession. Left back is more tricky as it’s been highlighted that set pieces are Bacelona’s weakness and we know how devastating our Serbian can be. On the other hand Clichy is much more suited to the fast transition play that Barca will play and Kolarov is more likely to be exposed by the explosive full back play of Jordi Alba.
Midfield is the key and although it is tempting to through Fernandinho, Yaya, Nasri and Silva to the fast transition play that Barca will play and Kolarov is more likely to be exposed by the explosive full back play of Jordi Alba.
Midfield is the key and although it is tempting to through Fernandinho, Yaya, Nasri and Silva and force Barcelona to change their game plan. However as we saw when we played Bayern at home the midfield couldn’t close the space down quick enough. However when we went to the Allianz Pellegrini added an extra man in the middle, Garcia, and after initially weathering the storm dominated midfield and completed one the biggest turnarounds in European club football history…if it had been done by someone else. So could Javi Garcia be the key element in the first leg? He had a terrific game on Saturday against a midfield arguably of equal ability.
Up front Alvaro Negredo will no doubt feel this is the game of his lifetime after spending to his early days as a Real Madrid player.
It’s the game of a lifetime and one that is there to be enjoyed. It’s a shame that Sergio is injured but I think its ours to win but I think we will have to score three to give ourselves a good chance to go through. On a personal note I think the great thing about football is getting to witness the best players in the world play and tonight i’m excited to see Lionel Messi play for the first time.
A Massive thanks to Bobby Brows from www.mancityfans.net for this fantastic Champions League Match Preview