The Champions of England meet one of Spain and Europe’s elite on Tuesday evening. The Champions League round of 16 takes us to the Etihad stadium to indulge in a footballing feast between Manchester City and FC Barcelona. The two sides are no strangers to each other in the knock round of this competition, having met at the same stage of last year’s Champions League. A year ago it was Barcelona who were victorious over the novice Man City side when it comes to European competition. Considering that Barce drifted through the tie with relative ease, due to a 2-0 away win in the first leg followed by a 2-1 win at the Nou Camp, you can expect City to be ready to exact some revenge this time around.
In terms of form heading into the match, the two teams are having similar seasons, both sides currently occupy second place in their respective domestic leagues. However, City’s immediate preparation for the clash was a resounding 5-0 demolition of Newcastle United on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, Barcelona were humbled on the same day at the Nou Camp with a 1-0 defeat to Malaga. Manchester City are still on Chelsea’s tail domestically but it is well stated their oil-rich owners seek European dominance as their ultimate goal. Barcelona after falling behind Real Madrid domestically and in the Champions League and so will be looking to get their seat back at the head of European footballs table via Pellegrini and his squad.
Manchester City’s only injury heading into the match is James Milner. The England international is not scheduled to return from his knee injury until the beginning of next month. If anything City boss Pellegrini is left with a selection headache, especially in terms of attacking options. Both Aguero and Silva were withdrawn at the weekend with half an hour to go giving them an added rest ahead of the tie. But, with new 25 million pound striker Wilfried Bony registered in the Champions League squad and Edin Dzeko showing a return to form against Newcastle, Pellegrini is spoilt for choice if sticks to his word of attacking the Catalonian giants as they did the Geordies on Saturday.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique announced on Sunday morning that he was taking all 21 of the available first team players on the trip to Manchester. The only exceptions were the injured Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen. Barcelona will therefore travel to home of the current Premier League champions with full complement, a frightening proposition for any team to face.
- The two side’s collision in last season’s round of 16 was their first competitive meeting.
- City had a man sent off in each of those games, Martin Demichelis in the first leg and the full-back Pablo Zabaleta in the second.
- This will be only the second time that City have played in the round of 16. Meanwhile, Barcelona are competing in it for the 11th year in a row.
- Barcelona have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in each of the last seven seasons.
- Aguero has 5 goals in 10 games against Barcelona from his Atletico Madrid days.
- City have never reached the quarter-finals of the competition, but their manager Pellegrini has made it there on 3 occasions. Twice with Villareal and once with Malaga
Manchester City: Vincent Kompany
If City want to advance beyond the round of 16 this year, I’m predicting they will need a clean sheet in hand for their trip to the Nou Camp. Step forward Vincent Kompany. The Manchester City captain has come under scrutiny this season as fans and neutrals alike have started to question his level of performance. There is such high expectation on the City captain, who has been one of the Premier League’s best defenders for the past few years. There would be no better time to emphatically silence any of those doubters than against Barcelona at the Etihad on Tuesday. Faced with the daunting challenge of keeping one of the most potent attacking forces in football at bay, the pressure really will be on the City backline. Even though Barce are the away team such is their attacking threat and quality of player that the City defenders will have to be performing at the top of their capabilities. Kompany should be looking to lead by example and be the catalyst that gives his side the confidence to go forward and beat Barcelona as he securely locks up everything at the back.
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
This is a man that needs no introduction. His name alone is enough to justify his place as a key player in this match. He is a key player in every match he plays in, some would say he’s even the key man in matches he is not playing in. Lionel Messi is heading to Manchester with his Barcelona team mates riding on a wave of what he seems to believe is a resurgence in form, because his 2014 was so disappointing… Saturday against Malaga was the first game in 7 that Messi had failed to score in. Since the start of the New Year Barce have played 8 league games and Lionel Messi has scored 11 goals. It’s clear that the Argentine magician wants to get back to besting his formidable foe on the goal scoring charts as he sits with 26 goals in 24 league games this year. All typically frightening stats that will have City’s team and fans worried ahead of the game. No matter how good City decide to be on Tuesday if Messi decides he is going to be better than his side will walk away with the positive away result they seek. Such is the talent of one of the greatest to ever lace a pair of boots, City will have to hope he struggles to find form on English soil as he has in the past because is not City could be looking at another round of 16 exit at the hands of Lionel Messi.
Manchester City’s performance against Newcastle could not have come at a better time. They edged through the group stages of this competition by the skin of their teeth. Luckily, since then they have had a big enough break for their struggles of the group stages to be forgotten and head into the knock out stages feeling they are as big a threat as anyone left in the competition. Putting 5 past Newcastle, while Chelsea dropped points, will have the squad feeling very confident heading into the home leg of this tie. Also, after the result the last time these two met City will definitely feel they have unfinished business with Barce and will want to right the wrongs of the last time the two sides clashed. Barcelona meanwhile appear to be a better team than they were last time the two teams met. They’ve stuck close to Real Madrid in the title race, and even Messi himself has acknowledged the rise in his form since the turn of the New Year. However, they took a sore defeat at home to Malaga at the weekend which would have dented their team spirit. The talent Barce have available can do the same to City as they did last year, they just have to make sure they don’t take the threat of the English champions too lightly. After the results at the weekend I can see City getting a home victory against the visitors but not without the Spanish giants having their say.
2-1 Man City victory