When Manchester City were drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League for a second year in a row, the English champions knew what they were getting into. Their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, promised that his side would give a better account of themselves thank last year and show maturity.
Yet, City, who have often found themselves lacking in Europea s premier club competition, were largely disappointing and thoroughly outclassed over the two legs. Trailing 1-2 from the first leg, Pellegrini opted to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kun Aguero playing as the lone striker.
Barcelona on the other hand, played their usual 4-3-3 with Javier Mascherano playing in the pivot role behind Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic. Mascherano was covering for the injured Sergio Busquets and played the role to perfection. Both Jordi Alba and Dani Alvez started in defense, while up top, it was the famous trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi pulling the strings.
So, where was the match won? What does the result mean for the two sides? Who and what made the headlines? Leta s have a look.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law
In recent years, having possession of the ball has started to lose its meaning as teams have worked out a way to counter the strategy. That can, however, only be achieved if the other team is prepared to absorb periods of pressure and are committed to a common goal. With creative and forward thinking players such as Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Kun Aguero and Aleksandr Kolorov all in the same team, City just couldna t have defended in numbers and with concentration.
The only way for them to play was with the ball and just 42 percent possession was never going to be enough. The English champions huffed and puffed as Barca moved the ball around the midfield, this despite having an extra man in that area of the pitch. Pellegrinia s side never looked like a team capable of challenging the Catalans for whom Rakitic, Iniesta and Messi ran the show.
In this form, Messi will win his battle with Ronaldo
Over the last couple of season, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the best player in the world ahead of Lionel Messi.
The Argentine, in fact, has admitted that at least 2014 was tough year for not him and not just on the pitch, but also off of it as he was embroiled in a tax scandal. The former four-time Ballon da Or winner confessed that the scandal had affected his performances on the pitch too and was one of the reasons behind his slight slump in form.
Since the start of 2015, however, the 27-year-old has been in sensational form, bagging 20 goals in 18 matches. That run has coincided with him moving to the right had side of attack, giving Enriquea s side balance while also freeing up the centre forwarda s position for Luis Suarez.
Last nighta s goal was created by the little Argentinea s delicious curling pass from the right to Rakitic who converted after taking it down beautifully on his chest. At the weekend, when the Catalans welcome fierce rivals Real Madrid to the Camp Nou, Messi will be eager to put in a similar display.
The Argentine is the top goalscorer in El Classicoa s history and seems on his way to putting on another vintage Messi display in the match on Sunday.
The treble may well be on for Barcelona
Prior to the game, Andres Iniesta, a veteran at the Catalan club, said that Luis Enriquea s side are ready to challenge on all three fronts. 10 wins in the last 11 is certainly the kind of form that wins you titles and with the kind of performances that Barca have shown over the last couple of months, ita ll take a brave man to bet against them.
After a lot of tinkering, Enrique has finally got the balance of this side right. While not always as composed and dominant in midfield as the great Pep Guardiola sides, this Barca outfit are a lot more direct and their front three are devastating. All three love to dribble, yet have an understanding about each othera s movement.
With Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all going through a little bit of a slump, MSN may well be the best attacking trio in the world.