Manchester City take on Barcelona tonight at the Camp Nou in the UEFA champions league second leg round of 16 clash. Barcelona hold all the aces as they secured a fantastic win away from home in the first leg after goals from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves late on secured a 2-0 win for the Catalans. Since that match though, a lot of water has passed under the bridge as they say. Barcelona have fallen behind in the title race and Manchester City have been knocked out of the FA cup. Both sides are in a sickly vein of form. Let’s put that into perspective shall we.
- Barcelona have lost twice now in La Liga since their first leg triumph at the Etihad and are now 4 points behind league leaders Real Madrid and with the Classico to come at the Bernabeu later this month, things are not looking rosy for the Blaugrana. Saturday’s defeat to relegation threatened Real Valladollid was very worrying. Barcelona had only 2 shots all match and despite having 75% of the ball, hardly tested 23yr old Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino Villar. When you take into consideration that Valladolid had only previously won 3 games at home all season scoring a miserly 16 goals, then Barcelona’s season might seem to be going down under.
Manchester City on the other hand were dumped out dramatically out of the FA cup by Wigan at home who also beat them in the same competition in the Finals last season. Wigan are currenly 8th in the second tier of English football and currently sit 25 points behind league leaders Leicester City and had managed just 18 goals in 17 games on the road. City will be hoping to give a good response tonight after their hopes of doing a ‘Quadruple’ have quite simply vaporized.
- Team news and tactics board: City quite simply need goals and thankfully will have Sergio Aguero back for this tie. Both teams are suspect defensively but I feel Barcelona’s defense is more suspect and with Aguero running at Pique and Mascherano, City have genuine hope of getting goals. The major dissapointment I had with Pellegrini’s tactics in the first leg was the fact that he allowed Barcelona to dictate the ball and the tempo of play. At home, you expect much better from them even against the very best in Europe. Last season, Bayern Munich put Barcelona under intense pressure pressing them all over the pitch over 2 legs and ran out 7-0 winners. If City can be more proactive rather than reactive tonight, they could have hopes of pulling a surprise. They have nothing to lose so go for it they must. Stevan Jovetic and Matija Nastasic are still out injured for City while Martin Demichelis is suspended after his red card in the first leg. I expect Yaya Toure to have a big influence on proceedings on his return to the Nou Camp. With Fernandinho providing support allowing him to bomb forward, Toure’s power play is needed badly to come to the fore.
- Barcelona have no new injury concerns after Gerard Pique was passed fit after being subbed off at the weekend at Valladolid. Andre Iniesta’s wife suffered a miscarriage hence his absence at the weekend’s game. It is highly doubtful he’ll make an appearance tonight giving his state of mind right now so Cesc Fabregas will shoulder most of the responsibility in midfield alongside Busquets and Xavi. Messi has been in indifferent form off late but his starting place has never been in doubt. Neymar was shockingly poor against Valladolid and will most likely start from the bench paving way for Alexis and Pedro to form a three pronged attack alongside Messi.
- Form guide last six games:
Manchester City: DWLWWL.
Predicition: I see Manchester City winning this 3-2 but still crashing out 4-3 on aggregate. Both defenses are vulnerable but Barcelona’s more suspect and with Aguero back, City look good for the second leg. Footynyx