Manchester City host the Spanish giants on Tuesday evening with hopes of making amends for the drubbing the club received the last time the two teams met.
The previous meeting between the two sides eventually turned out to be a relatively easy affair for the home side. However, the match was still in the balance until Bravo’s red-card, which completely changed the complexion of the game. If Manchester City are to secure three points, they cannot afford to make such errors again, as we saw the last time at Camp Nou, M-S-N are only too willing to pounce upon them,
Barcelona can more or less secure the top spot in Group C if the Blaugrana happen to register a win tomorrow, while a victory for Manchester City will make their path for qualification to the next round much easier.
Tactics and Probable line-ups
The Citizen’s 6 match win-less run finally came to end with an emphatic 4-0 victory away to West Brom. Sergio Aguero was also back on the score-sheet with a brace after going six matches without finding the back of the net.
Pep has tinkered with the formation in the past few games, including a return to his preferred system (4-3-3), against West Brom. It shouldn’t be surprising if Guardiola picks the same formation for this tie.
Claudio Bravo won’t be available due to his red-card at Camp Nou, so Willy Caballero will be tasked to prevent Barcelona from scoring.
Pep Guardiola may have to improvise at the right-back spot, as both Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna are ruled out of the game with injuries. The other options are Fernando (who played at that position at the weekend) and 19-year-old full-back Pablo Maffeo, with the former more likely to start. Vincent Kompany was on the bench on Saturday, but should be in the playing XI tomorrow alongside John Stones. Aleksandar Kolarov will fill in at the left-back spot, as his ability to pick wide players with a long diagonal is seen as a major advantage over Gael Clichy.
Fernandinho will be the deepest midfielder as the number six, having the responsibility to shut down the Barcelona attacks in their tracks as well as to facilitate the buildup. Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva will play just ahead of him and will be the primary creative hubs of the team, tasked to bypass the press and pick out the front-line ahead of them with passes.
Kevin De Bruyne recovered from his injury, coming on in the second half at the Hawthorns and producing an assist for Gundogan’s second goal of the night. It seems likely the Belgian will play on the left with Raheem Sterling on the right.
Guardiola confirmed star striker Sergio Aguero will return to the starting XI to lead the line after being dropped at the Camp Nou.
The Catalans will go into the game hampered with set-backs, with Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Aleix Vidal all ruled out of the tie with injuries while Jeremy Mathieu is ineligible due to the red card he received in the previous meeting.
The injuries does seem to have affected the Blaugrana’s as they could only labour through a 1-0 win over relegation candidates Granada at home on Saturday, while only a late penalty from Messi earned them the whole three points against Valencia at the previous weekend.
Luis Enrique would be hoping Ter Stegen imitates his display from the Camp Nou game against Manchester City if Barcelona are to return with the three points.
Sergi Roberto has recovered from his injury and should continue as the right-back, while Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti will be at the heart of the defense. In Jordi Alba’s absence, Lucas Digne will start as the left-back.
Busquets was rested at the weekend, and thus should be in the starting XI on Tuesday. Rafinha has been in good goal-scoring form off late, which should bring him in contention to start. One of Denis Suarez or Rakitic should fill in for Iniesta’s absence.
The front-line will be the trio which has terrorized almost every team in the world, Messi – Suarez – Neymar.
This Barcelona team has shown they are equally adept at hitting the opponent with a quick-counter as they are with dominating possession. That’s what makes the team so dangerous to play against, and if Manchester City continues to make the mistakes they did the last time, expect a similar scoreline.
Predicted XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Javier Mascherano, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne; Sergio Busquets, Denis Suarez, Rafinha; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar.
- Barcelona have faced Manchester City five times in the Champions League, winning on each occasion.
- Neymar has recorded five assists in this year’s Champions League; three more than any other player.
- Lionel Messi has scored 15 goals in his last 13 appearances against English opposition.
- Seven of Manchester City’s last 10 home Champions League goals have come in the 76th minute or later.
Manchester City will be looking to build upon the impressive victory at the weekend against a weakened Barcelona side. However, Barcelona’s front three possess the ability to change the game within seconds. It promises to be an entertaining tie, with, hopefully, plenty of goals. It will likely end in a 2-2 draw.