Camp Nou, Barcelona
March 18th, 2015; 19:45 GMT
Drawn against each other for the second time in as many years, Barcelona and Manchester City have now played each other three times. In each of the three games, the English side have had a man sent off and ended the game with ten men. Pointing to the fact, City manager Manuel Pellegrini said that his team were yet to play the Catalans 11 against 11.
Belief is something the Chilean isna t short of and that showed when his team played the 2009 and 2011 Champions League winners in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium as he opted for straight forward 4-4-2. Pelegrini, however, was roundly criticized for the same as his side stumbled to a 1-2 defeat to the Catalans.
Now, the reigning English champions find themselves in trouble as they look to bounce back. City need to score at least two goals to have any chance of making the quarterfinals and come into the match as massive underdogs.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Had Lionel Messi converted that last minute penalty in the first leg, his team would have won the tie at the Etihad itself. As it stands, Barca are heavy favourites but by no means certain of a place in the quarters. Messi & Co. will need to be up for the game as they battle a side looking to bounce back from a shock defeat to local rivals Burnley in the Premier League.
Barcelona, however, have been in stunning form of late and have registered 9 wins out of the last 10 games. Courtesy of that run, they are now leading La Liga by a point. Luis Enriquea s men are also in the Copa del Rey final where they will take on reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid. The biggest reason behind that sudden upturn in form is the attacking trio of summer signing Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar who have been sensation over the last two months.
Enrique has also found the right system to get the most out of the three, while maintaining balance. Much like the good ola days of Pep Guardiola, Enrique employs a 4-3-3, using Sergio Busquets as a withdrawn holding midfielder who sits behind the more creative Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta/Xavi. The former Roma and Celta Vigo boss can only accommodate one of the two Spanish midfielders who arena t quite as energetic or effective in midfield as they used to be. Sergio Busquets, however, is set to miss out due to an ankle ligament injury that he suffered in a Copa del Rey clash.
A back four with two marauding full backs gives them the width that they can lack at times when both Neymar and Messi cut in from the left and the right respectively. Playing Messi on the right has allowed Luis Suarez to play in his favoured centre forwarda s role, something that seems to be working well for him. Messi, too, has been in imperious form and one of the reasons seem to be a change in position and the other is perhaps fitness related.
Predicted Line-up (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Rakitic, Mascherano, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
They maybe the champions in perhaps the most competitive league
in the world, but Manchester City have been a shadow of their former selves this season. Erratic, unmotivated and without direction are some of the superlatives being used to describe Pellegrinia s men who have now lost three out of their last four matches in all competitions.
Key players David Silva, Kun Aguero and Yaya Toure are all either out of form or overworked and exhausted. To top it all, their ever reliable captain Vincent Kompany is playing some of his worst football in a City shirt. Kompany has been directly responsible for several goals that the Citizens have let in recently.
Interestingly, City have gone through this kind of rut before this season and responded brilliantly. From mid-January to mid-February, City went through four games without a win. They came out of that with back to back wins, scoring as many as nine goals in the process. Their manager would be hoping that performance is around the corner. Something that may also aid Citya s cause is that Barca may have one eye on El Classico which is scheduled to take place in the weekend.
Tactically out-thought in the first leg, the Chilean will, hopefully, employ a more elaborate approach rather than the simplistic 4-4-2.
Predicted Line-up (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Milner, Navas, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva; Aguero
- 16 of Barcelonaa s 17 goals in the Champions League this season have been scored from open play.
- Manchester City have lost four of their last five Champions League against Spanish opposition (D1). Their only away win came against Villarreal in November 2011 (3-0).
- Barcelona have made it to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 11th consecutive campaign. They have always made it at least to the quarter finals in the last seven seasons.
- Sergio AgA?ero has scored 11 goals in his last 10 Champions League games.
Player To Watch Out For
Since the turn of the year, Messi has been a completely different player. He has scored 20 goals in 17 matches for Barca and is looking motivated to overthrow Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world. The Argentine will, most likely, start on the right side of attack and cut in and come back in midfield to pick the ball up. He will act as the link between Barcaa s midfield and forward line.
Barcelona 3-1 Manchester City
Simply put, this Barcelona team seem too good for an out of form Manchester City side. The trio of Suarez, Messi and Neymar seem to be in brilliant nick and if the connect to the effect that they can, therea s only going to be one winner.
Blast From The Past