Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be looking for some sort of ‘mini miracle’ as the Premier League title challengers look to overturn a 2-0 deficit. Goals from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves at the Etihad Stadium last week have hindered Manchester City’s chances of advancing into the last-eight of the competition.
Out of sorts defender Martin Demichellis gifted the Catalan club an easy first leg win after his last ditch tackle on three-times Ballon D’Or winner Messi with Barca dominating after a good opening 20 minutes from City. Former Malaga and Villarreal gaffer, Pellegrini will have to settle for a place in the stands at the Nou Camp, as he is currently serving a two match touchline ban after he was punished for publicly criticising referee, Jonas Eriksson. The Chilean, dubbed ‘The Engineer’ said the Swede was ‘not impartial to both teams.’
However, the Premier League title contenders will be boosted with the return of Sergio Aguero to European football after his absence from the first leg. As well as Aguero, David Silva, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas will be returning to their homeland in an attempt to inflict misery on Tata Martino’s side. Midfield powerhouse, Yaya Toure will be returning to the Nou Camp for the first time since his £24m switch to Manchester City in 2011 and stop the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas from controlling the centre of the park.
After beating Sunderland in the League Cup final last week at Wembley, City’s hopes of an illustrious quadruple winning season hit a huge snag after yesterday’s surprising 2-1 FA Cup defeat at the hands of Championship outfit, Wigan Athletic, a repeat of last season’s final. Nevertheless, Barcelona lost top spot of La Liga to rivals Real Madrid after their shock 1-0 loss away at Real Valladolid. The Spanish giants run of form has also been irregular of late. Accumulating just 10 points in their last six league games, which included defeat’s against Valencia and Real Sociedad can give Pellegrini some encouragement leading up to Wednesday night.
Barcelona v Manchester City: 10 reasons why Manchester City can still progress in the Champions League
Barcelona v Manchester City: 10 reasons why Manchester City can still progress in the Champions League
1/10 1. Bayern Munich won 3-0 in Barcelona last year - and City have beaten the holders this year
When Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich side marched into an early 2-0 lead over City at the Allianz Arena in the last group game encounter of the current Champions League campaign, it seemed not much had changed at City; While Manuel Pellegrini's City side would better the work of predecessor Roberto Mancini by making it to the knockout phase for the first time, they appeared still some way off toppling the giants of European football. But then they produced a stirring fight-back in Germany to win the game and only narrowly miss out on topping the group ahead of the Bundesliga champions - something Pellegrini probably doesn't want to be reminded of. It was their best performance in Europe, and proved they're not out of their depth anymore. Bayern memorably outclassed Barcelona last year, there's no reason why City - with their win in Munich in mind - cannot do the same.
2/10 2. Martin Demichelis is suspended
Having a player that's played the majority of your matches this season suspended for a trip to Catalonia hardly sounds like a positive, but the case of City's Argentine defender is one of those sporting anomalies that arises ever so often. Since Pellegrini brought him to the Etihad Stadium last summer, he's taken heavy criticism from the stands for his substandard performances against Chelsea in the league, Watford and Wigan in the FA Cup, and of course his decision to scythe down Lionel Messi in the first leg of their last-16 tie. In the game previous to Barca's arrival in Manchester, Joleon Lescott partnered Vincent Kompany in central defence during their 2-0 FA Cup victory over Chelsea, keeping the likes of Eden Hazard - who ran the show during the league encounter - relatively quiet. Lescott is certainly not flawless, but having a defender that hasn't endured some torrid performances in his debut season at City may provide those around him with the poise and confidence needed to topple Gerardo Martino's XI.
3/10 3. City more than matched Barca when it was 11 v 11
Before Demichelis' sending off, the first leg looked like it may well meander towards a 0-0 draw as both teams cancelled each other out with relative comfort. Going forward, City had chances and although Alvaro Negredo didn't reach the heights that night that we've seen him hit in other games, he was lively enough to give Barca's back four a few headaches. If the Citizens can settle quickly both in an attacking sense and a defensive one, they'll begin to grow in confidence as the minutes tick by and if they take the lead, Barcelona - going through a transition phase since Guardiola's exit - could panic.
4/10 4. In Sergio Aguero, the visitors have their best player back
Taking on Barcelona without your best player is perhaps less of a problem when you take into account the talent Pellegrini has at his disposal, but the return of Aguero is a huge boost for City. He's their top scorer, for one, after bagging 26 goals this term despite missing 13 games through separate injuries. The Argentine has developed into a magnificent forward who may not be the biggest but has strength in abundance, awareness to match and a deadly finish. He scores all manner of goals, making him key to City's hopes of progression.
5/10 5. Barcelona lost to Vallodolid at the weekend - a team fighting relegation
Results similar to this one have begun to occur more and more since the invincibility of Barcelona left with Guardiola when he headed for New York, highlighted in ruthless fashion by Bayern Munich in last year's semi-final disintegration. A run of three losses in six La Liga games has seen them slip four points off the pace set by Real Madrid, and while they're not completely out of the race for yet another league crown, their current form suggests it's only a matter of time. Champions League success may well define Martino's first season in charge at the Nou Camp, but will he and his team feel the added pressure of a poor domestic campaign lingering over them when City come to town?
6/10 6. Samir Nasri is finally beginning to prove his worth
Whenever a defender or goalkeeper makes a rash decision that subsequently sees them sent for an early bath, those in midfield and attack begin to hide behind the opposition praying it's not them that will become the sacrificial lamb. Sadly for Nasri in the first leg, Pellegrini chose to take the Frenchman off to shore up the hole in his defence. He now has a point to prove to his manager that in future, he should remain on the pitch. His stunning goal in the League Cup final coupled with his strike at the weekend was proof enough that he's rediscovered his touch in front of goal, and he finally looks like he belongs in City's starting XI.
7/10 7. Messi's sick - and not in a good way
The four-times Ballon d'Or winner has been described as 'sick' in the 21st Century since it became an adjective similar to 'cool', but his recent on-field illness sees us refer back to its original definition on this occasion. It's been widely reported that in recent fixtures, the Argentine has been seen to vomit on the pitch, something Martino has described as 'not normal'. It's apparently left experts perplexed and unable to place a diagnosis on it. The Barcelona manager has moved to ease the worries of their fans by saying it doesn't affect his performance, but the fact their stuttering league form has coincided with Messi's recent illness suggests that might not necessarily be true.
8/10 8. It only takes a minute to score two goals - Agueroooooo
Vincent Kompany has said that he and his team will draw on their title-winning campaign of 2011/12 for inspiration in the Nou Camp tonight. They know more than most that everything can change in an instant having secured their first Premier League crown with two goals in injury time to 'snatch the title away from Manchester United', as Martin Tyler famously commented. It was the greatest moment of City's recent history, and everyone in the blue half of Manchester will be hoping to hear the legendary broadcaster sign tonight's game off with a similar line to his cry of 'stupendous' after Aguero netted that goal against QPR on the last day of the season in 2012.
9/10 9. There's history to be made
No team has ever overturned a 2-0 defeat on home soil in the second leg of the Champions League (something Arsenal can add themselves to after last night), a fact that may well show the size of the task ahead of Pellegrini and co, but should inspire them at the same time. The chance to make history in professional football is not something that comes around often - City's loss at the Etihad has provided them with that opportunity, albeit in unwanted circumstances.
10/10 10. Sometimes Lady Luck provides a helping hand
Anyone who watched Chelsea's incredible 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp two years ago was left scratching their head - and eyes - in disbelief at what they had witnessed. Having been largely under the cosh for 180 minutes against the-then best side in world football, the Blues enjoyed more than a little luck on their way to Champions League glory in 2011/12. Messi missed a penalty, John Terry was sent off in the first half leaving the Stamford Bridge outfit down to 10 men with over an hour to play... and Fernando Torres scored. Now, who'd have predicted that? In the beautiful game, anything really is possible.
PAST THREE MEETINGS:
Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2 (Messi pen, Alves) February 2014
Barcelona 0 Manchester City 1 (Petrov) (Pre-season friendly) August 2009
Manchester City 2 (Anelka, Sinclair) Barcelona 1 (Saviola) (Pre-season friendly) August 2003
Barcelona’ summer acquisition, Neymar, has had more shots per game than any other player in the Champions League.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored more goals on home turf in this seasons Champions League than any other player. (5 goals).
Barcelona are chasing their fourth Champions League trophy. Barca have not won the Champions League since 2011.
Manchester City have never reached the last eight of the UEFA Champions League in their history.
Manchester City 5/1
LIVE ON TV:
Sky Sports 1 Kick Off- 7:45pm. Champions League highlights show, Thursday 12:15am, Sky Sports 1