A tantalizing second leg contest is on the offing when Catalan giants FC Barcelona host English Champions Manchester City at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night after an eventful 1-2 away win for Luis Enrique’s side a fortnight ago. Messi and company will go into this midweek game hugely confident, on the back of a 5 game winning streak in all competitions that has lifted them to the very top of La Liga and will be quickly followed by a bumper home fixture at the weekend against arch nemesis Real Madrid in what might eventually turn out to be the title decider. While recent form clearly points towards a comfortable progression for the home side, history does too, with Barcelona coming away victorious in their last three visits having bagged at least two goals in each of those three ties against the Manchester club in all competitions.
It is safe to say the reigning champions Manchester City could have conceded the title to Chelsea once and for all after their latest slump at Burnley when arguably their full strength starting eleven had to come away empty handed from Turf Moor. They have been very inconsistent and patchy since the start of February when they faced a few disappointing defeats against the big sides in Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool during the course of the month which has quite set the alarm bells ringing as far as Manuel Pellegrini’s job is concerned. After a 2-1 loss to Barcelona in the first leg at the Etihad thanks to a valiant effort from Sergio Aguero that has kept them in the game ahead of this reverse fixture, Pellegrini said he believes the tie is not over as a contest and backs his boys in blue to deliver when it really mattered.
For Barcelona, Sergio Busquets and Thomas Vermaelen remain the only absentees. The hosts could welcome back full backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba, who sat out at the weekend due to league suspensions. Enrique also had the chance to rest Javier Mascherano, Andres Iniesta and Xavi against Eibar, and they could all feature against City.
Possible Starting Lineup – Bravo; Montoya, Bartra, Pique, Adriano; Roberto, Rakitic, Rafinha; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
City will most likely be boosted by the return of Yaya Toure from suspension, but they will be without the suspended Gael Clichy, who was sent off in the first leg in England. As mentioned, Milner and Nasri could return if Pellegrini decides to change from his much-criticized 4-4-2 setup.
Possible Starting Lineup – Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Milner, Navas, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva; Aguero.
- 16 of Barcelona’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 Agüero has scored 11 goals in his last 10 Champions League games.
Neymar – FC Barcelona
Neymar has had a phenomenal season for Barcelona in both domestic and European competitions. He’s been living up to his big name tag with him now having become more of a brand of the mould of fellow superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Brazilian has shown on a consistent basis that he has all the potential to develop into the best player on the planet one day. In the Champions League, Neymar has scored three goals in 6 group stage appearances and has managed to create 11 goal-scoring chances from open play, all with a passing accuracy of 85% shows what kind of a form he’s been in, in Europe. With match-winners Messi and Suarez completing their holy triumvirate, Neymar has all the ability to win this game on his own for his side securing themselves a safe passage to the last eight.
David Silva – Manchester City
Manchester City’s very own magician David Silva has been unpredictable this campaign. One day he’s having a blinder that makes us all wonder if he’s the best player in the Premier League while on another day even his first touch is letting him down. He’s had a solitary assist in this year’s Champions League and has provided 13 clear cut chances (incl assist) so far with a typical Silva-ish passing accuracy of 89%. He will prove very vital for the travelling outfit on Wednesday with him expected to start just behind Sergio Aguero but for a player that’s always on the ball in and around the box, he’s not attempted a single shot on goal with all 4 of his shooting attempts in 5 appearances, going off the target, something he needs to work on, if Man City are to make it a memorable night at the famous Nou Camp.
This should be really interesting and intriguing with all the stellar names on show but could ultimately boil down to who wants it more on the night. Barcelona to go through on aggregate.
FC Barcelona 2-2 Manchester City.