February 18th 2014. I had the date pencilled down on my calendar when the draws for the champions league round of 16 were made in December 2013 and both Manchester City and Barcelona were paired together. I watched the draws live with a friend and as soon as this fixture was pulled out of the hat, we both looked at each other knowingly and smiled. No words were needed. We both knew we were going to be in for a thrill as our minds wandered to the immense talent that would be on show. Messi, Negredo, Neymar, Silva, Xavi, Toure. I’ll stop here and let your imagination take over. Sometimes big games tend to dissapoint after so much hype. I can guarantee you this one wouldn’t. This will not be some tense, tactical battle. This will be a fixture with two teams going hammer and tongs at each other. They attack, attack and attack. It’s in their collective DNA. Intriguing for both fans and neutrals alike. When you have one of the finest players of his generation on one side with a star studded support cast and a free scoring team especially at home with a man machine in midfield in Yaya Toure, then there’s a lot to savour.
- Interestingly, both teams have never met in a competitive fixture in Europe before majorly because of City’s anaemic past in the English top flight. Barcelona on the other hand are well acquainted at this level. The Catalans have won this competition three times in the last eight seasons and in two of those occasions they emphatically triumphed over Manchester opposition in the final albeit the red half of Manchester. This is City’s first foray into the knock out stages of the champions league proper after two successive group stage exits when Roberto Mancini was at the helm. They will feel they are more mature now after they only lost top spot in their group to defending champions Bayern on goal difference. Both teams were tied on 15 points after City beat the Bavarians on their home patch on matchday 6.
Barcelona topped their group in unconvincing fashion after losing to ten man Ajax and drawing with Milan. At this stage last season, Barca lost the first leg of a round of 16 clash against Milan 2-0 and though they went on to win the return leg convincingly at the Camp Nou, they know that a similar slip up this time around could prove more costly against a dangerous opponent as City.
- Team watch: Manchester City still have talisman Sergio Aguero out injured. The Argentine has scored six times in five champions league games this season and has 25 in 26 appearances in all. He will be a big miss. On a happier note for Man City, midfielder Fernandinho will most likely feature alongside Yaya Toure. Barcelona have no fresh injury concerns and were boosted with the goalscoring return of wonderkid Neymar who scored a stunner in the weekend’s 6 nil rout of a sorry Rayo Valencano.
Predicition: There will be goals for sure especially with City’s goalscoring form at home. With Barcelona’s very unconvincing backline, I expect this to end 3-2 in favour of Man City. Footynyx.
- Stat of the day: 47.5% – Barca’s possession v Rayo Vallecano in September, the first time in three years they had less than 50%.
- Quote of the day: Jose Mourinho on Barcelona ‘I think this is the worst Barcelona team of many many years, so City have a chance.’