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After about two months break, Champions League action begins again. The boys have been separated from the men and we are left with sixteen teams with eyes on the Holy Grail come May. The Round has thrown mouth-watering fixtures; the pick which are Manchester City against Barcelona, and European Champions, Bayern Munchen against Arsenal.
We shall preview the Manchester City vs. Barcelona game. We hope you enjoy it!
The game between the Manchester City and Barcelona can be likened to a clash between a newcomer and a veteran. Manchester City would be making her first appearance at this stage of the competition while their more illustrious opponents have won this tournament four times, three in the last seven years.
Manchester City has been scoring goals for fun this season with a total of 113 in all competitions. In Aguero, City has one of the world’s most in-form strikers. Yaya Toure, a former Barca player has exploded offensively since moving to England. This season, He has scored 7 of his 8 set-pieces; 4 out of 5 free-kicks and has converted all 3 of his penalties. The Defence might not been the strongest in this City side but there are few who can equal the defensive abilities of Skipper, Vincent Kompany.
For the Catalan Giants, they might not be the force they were under Guardiola but they can still hold their own against the World’s finest. Valdes is one of the most underrated players in this team but his shot-stopping abilities are equal to none. He is also adept in the one-on-one situation. Piqué, despite his occasional error is still one of the best in his position. In the midfield, a certain Andres Iniesta is the creative cog of this team. Neymar, Sanchez and Pedro have been beneficiaries of the direct play introduced by Tata and lest we forget, King Lionel Messi ,who, despite all the injuries is still one of the finest if not the finest on his day. His haul of five goals in his last three games suggests the Argentine has found his mojo.
- Manchester City: P25 W17 D3 L5(3rd)- BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
- Barcelona: P24 W19 D3 L2 (1st)- SPANISH PRIMERA LIGA
- Manchester City
There was no Premier League action this weekend as the FA CUP took centre stage. Manchester City zoomed into the Quarter-Finals of the World’s oldest Cup Competition by easing past a lacklaustre Chelsea side 2-0 to gain some form of revenge for the loss at the Etihad.
The Catalan Giants prepare for their trip to Manchester with a comprehensive and flawless 6-0 victory over a sorry-looking Rayo Vallecano to move back to the top of the log.
STORY SO FAR
The Eastland side was in Group D alongside European Champions, Bayern Munchen, Russian Champions, CSKA Moscow and Czech side, Viktoria Plzen. The Citizens garnered 15 points out of a possible 18 with the sole defeat at home to the Bavarian Giants. It marked the first time Manchester City advanced past the Group Stage after two previous failed attempts.
The Citizens recorded impressive 5-2 and 4-2 home victories over CSKA and Plzen though they slumped to a disappointing 1-3 defeat at the Etihad. They scored 10 goals and let in 7 at the Etihad.
- P 6 W 5 D 0 L 1 GF 18 GA 10 GD +8 PTS 15
It was a Group of Champions for the Blaugrana in Group H with AC Milan, Ajax and Scottish Giants, Celtic their Group opponents. Barcelona as expected topped the Group with but with just 13 points as the likes of AC Milan and Ajax providing little or no competition. Their 6-1 win over the Glasgow Giants in Match day Six is still their most impressive performance till date.
Away from the Nou Camp, their record was a victory at Celtic, a draw at San Siro and a defeat at Amsterdam (their solitary loss). They scored 3 goals and conceded 3 away from home.
- P6 W4 D1 L1 GF 16 GA 5 GD +11 PTS 13
- Sergio Aguero faces a race to be fit for the Tuesday clash as he still battles with the hamstring injury he picked up in the 5-1 win at White Hart Lane.
- Fernandinho is another who is racing against time to be fit for the mouth-watering tie.
- James Milner is suspended for the Battle at Etihad after picking up his third yellow card.
- Samir Nasri, Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell have recovered from their physical problems with the Frenchman playing and scoring In the FA CUP victory over Chelsea.
- Carles Puyol and Neymar made their return from the sidelines in the 6-0 demolition of Rayo with the latter scoring an outstanding goal.
- Jonathan Dos Santos would however miss the game as he recovers from a cruciate ligament injury.
THE MANAGERS AND EUROPE
- Manuel Pellegrini (MANCHESTER CITY)
He is not new to European Football. He led the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal to the Semi-Finals in 2006 where they lost out 0-1 to Arsenal. In the 2012/2013 season, his Malaga side was seconds away from knocking Dortmund and advancing to the Semi-Finals. He’s also played Barcelona several times during his spells as coach of Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga.
- GERARDO MARTINO (BARCELONA)
He is relatively inexperienced in Europe as his previous teams have been South American. Unlike his predecessors who were strict adherents of the tiki-taka football, he’s brought the direct football to Nou Camp thus serving as a Plan B against teams who would park-the bus. He is yet to face any real test but so far has come out unscathed in his European adventure.
WHAT MANCHESTER CITY MUST DO
- Expose the Central Defence: For all of Barca’s strength in attack, her Achilles heel is the central defence; Carles Puyol is a fading force and has spent more time at the treatment table than on the pitch, Pique the best defender in the Catalan setup is prone to error and loss of concentration, Bartra for all his improvement is still untested and doesn’t look ready for the big games. Manchester City would have to capitalize on any lapses in Barcelona defense. With the way they’ve been banging in goals, one would fancy them to do so. Aguero who has 6 goals in this competition will be a huge loss but Jovetic has looked in recent games especially against Chelsea the player we all saw at Fiorentina .The Montenegrin alongside Negredo and Dzeko should shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities.
- Take Advantage of Set-Pieces: Barcelona is not a team known for height. The likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi will not be anyone’s picking to man-mark for a corner. Chelsea and Bayern Munchen have taken full advantage in recent seasons and Valencia also exposed the flaw in their shock 3-2 win at the Camp Nou. City with the likes of Kompany, Yaya Toure, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko would relish the opportunity to attack a set piece.
Press-Press and Press: The likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets are no doubt one of the best on the ball and it would be disastrous for City to allow them get into their rhythm. They are dangerous when allowed to dictate the play. What City has to do is hassle them off the ball. Xavi in particular has been on the decline in the last two years and would be a target. This side is not known for its physicality and tends to suffer against the physical sides. Chelsea did it in 2012, Bayern did it emphatically last season and Atletico Madrid has done it three times this season. City would have to replicate what they did against Hazard, Matic and Mikel on Saturday. Toure and Javi Garcia come to mind in this regard.
- Don’t Focus On Messi Alone: I am not suggesting that they should not pay attention to the Argentine as that would be foolish. However, they should not focus on him alone as Barca now has a rejuvenated Alexis and of course, heir-apparent, Neymar.
Stop Busquets: Someone might ask why? Busquets might not be the most fanciful player in this team as his work is often underrated. He is responsible for winning the ball and is one of the best when it comes to positioning and screening the defence behind. What most people don’t however know is that he is the one who starts everything. Busquets most times drops back to receive the short kick from Valdes with the Central Defenders drifting out wide and the full backs forming auxiliary wing-backs. What City has to do is to press him immediately he gets the ball as there is a chance he’ll make a mistake which would leave Barca short at the back. It is for this purpose I’ll pick Jovetic over Dzeko.
- Solve the Defensive Troubles: The Sky Blues have let in 7 goals in three Champions League Games. That says a lot about City’s troubles at the back. Against Barcelona, City can’t afford such generosity as the likes of Pedro, Sanchez, and Neymar and of course Messi would need no second invitation to pounce on any defensive blunders. They can’t afford to have any Joe Hart Scandal or Demichelis Marathon. They have to stay compact and try not to concede any away goal in order to have any hope of winning this game and possibly the tie.
WHAT BARCELONA SHOULD DO
- Expose The Defence: City might possess a fearsome attacking threat but they are no angels at the other side. Barcelona should take a cue from Chelsea’s win at Etihad and see the way the Blues tore them to pieces defensively. In Neymar, Alexis, Cesc Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro and of course Messi, the Catalan Giants have what it takes to unlock the defence and make for an interesting second leg. The Citizens have conceded 7 goals at home and with Barca’s attacking threat, they’ll feel they have what it takes to go back to Camp Nou with an away goal.
Expose the Flanks: City as we know love to attack with their fullbacks. Except Manuel comes up with a different strategy, it is most likely the same way they will play. Barca have this season played with width, they play less through the middle. They play through both flanks with Neymar, Pedro or Alexis running at the defence to provide pin-point deliveries into the box. If City as expected plays with Zabaleta and Kolarov/Clichy pushing up, then the wide players of the Blaugrana would hurt them on the break.
- Expose the Left: David Silva barring any unforeseen circumstances would start on Tuesday. While there is no doubt that he’s an excellent ball-player, his ball-winning and tracking back abilities leave a lot to be desired. Navas would provide cover for Zabaleta on the right; the left could be a Dani Alves/Sanchez VS. Kolarov/ Clichy battle. The Spanish Giants would have watched clips of Chelsea’s game and saw the way Kolarov was run at by the likes of Ivanovic, Ramires and Willian.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN
Manchester City: 4-4-2
- Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
- Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta/ Vincent Kompany/Martin Demichelis and Alexander Kolarov
- Midfielders: Jesus Navas/Yaya Toure/Javi Garcia and David Silva
- Forwards: Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic
- Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes
- Defenders: Dani Alves/Gerard Pique/ Carles Puyol and Jordi Alba
- Midfielders: Cesc Fabregas/Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta
- Forwards: Alexis Sanchez/Lionel Messi and Neymar
RESULTS VERSUS CLUBS FROM OPPONENTS’ COUNTRY
Man City: P 9 W 3 D 3 L 3 GF18 GA 15
Barcelona: P 60 W 24 D 19 L 17 GF 98 GA 73
This is one of the games where fans would expect to see lots of goals as they both carry great attacking threats and defensive frailties.
I will go for a 3-2 victory to Manchester City at the Etihad.
Watch Out For the Arsenal V. Bayern Munchen Preview tomorrow!