A titanic confrontation as Europe’s two supreme attacking forces face off for a place in the quarter-finals.
After the disappointment of previous European campaigns, Manuel Pellegrini has been able to do what Roberto Mancini never could: replicate City’s irrepressible domestic form on the continental stage. It will not be lost on Barcelona that in the group stages City were more than a match for Bayern Munich, who so comprehensively dismantled the Blaugrana in last season’s semis.
Barca have plenty of European pedigree, having won this competition three times in the last eight seasons, but since the departure of Pep Guardiola their aura of invincibility has slipped. A shaky group-stage campaign, including a humbling defeat to ten-man Ajax, confirmed that Tata Martino’s side no longer bestride the European landscape quite as colossally as they once did.
But Barcelona have abundant experience of big European nights like these, while Pellegrini’s arrivistes have none. And Lionel Messi and co remain a fearsome attacking contingent, with ten goals in their last two games underlining Barcelona’s continued potency. City will not fear their visitors. But they underestimate them at their peril.
KICK OFF: Tuesday, 7.45pm
Barcelona 0 Manchester City 1 (Petrov), Pre-season friendly, August 2009
Of the last ten Champions League meetings between English clubs and Spanish clubs, English clubs have won 4, with their Spanish counterparts claiming just 2 wins.
Lionel Messi has scored 6 goals in his last 6 games against English opposition.
Manchester City average 3.5 goals at home this season, the equal highest in Europe’s top five leagues, while Barcelona average 2.25 goals away.
The last two goals scored by English clubs against Spanish clubs in the Champions League have both been own goals (Inigo Martinez for Real Sociedad, and Sergio Ramos for Real Madrid, both against Manchester United).
In their last match (against Rayo Vallecano), Barcelona recorded more goals (6) than crosses (5), the first such instance in La Liga this season.
Manchester City to win: 2.87
Barcelona to win: 2.37
TV: Live on ITV at 7.30pm, highlights at 10.35pm.
Manchester City v Barcelona: The 10 most dangerous Barcelona players
Manchester City v Barcelona: The 10 most dangerous Barcelona players
1/10 Lionel Messi (Position: Centre Forward)
The Argentine aims to showcase his renewed supremacy after an unprecedented injury lay-off and accusations of apathy by Barcelona's former assistant manager Angel Cappa. His current tally of 24 goals in 27 games is underwhelming by his standards but by no means indicative of a lack of passion. He has scored six goals in his last six games against English opposition, has netted six in his last three in the Champions League, and notched six in his last seven appearances. Moreover, he just became the third highest goal-scorer in the history of La Liga at 26-years-old. He is a frightening player.
Games: 27 Goals: 24 Assists: 11 (season stats across all competitions)
2/10 Neymar (Position: Forward Left)
The 22-year-old sensation isn’t expected to start against the Sky Blues, as he is still recovering from a lengthy absence with an ankle injury. He could still feature however, managing to play in 29 minutes of Barcelona’s 6-0 thumping against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. The slippery forward is yet to replicate the magnificent goal-scoring form he exhibited in Brazil, scoring 42 goals in 47 appearances in 2012, but remains a dangerous prospect for any defence. He hasn’t scored against English opposition, but the last time he netted on English soil was against Scotland at the Emirates Stadium in 2011, firing in a brace.
Games: 34 Goals: 15 Assists: 17
3/10 Alexis Sanchez (Position: Forward Right)
The Chilean forward has been a revelation for the Catalan outfit this season. After an abject two seasons with the club, with many anticipating his exit, he has somehow managed to overshadow fellow teammates Neymar and, to a certain extent, Messi. The 26-year-old has already surpassed his goal tally from last season, scoring 21 goals in all competitions – including a brace against England in November – and is currently Barcelona’s top scorer in La Liga with 15 goals.
Games: 38 Goals: 21 Assists: 14
4/10 Pedro (Position: Forward Left)
The last time the Spaniard faced a team from Manchester, he scored the opening goal and paved the way towards a comfortable Champions League Final victory. The prospect of facing this cash-imbued Manchester City side is perhaps a little more daunting but, now at 26-years-old, the marauding forward will want to claim a third Champions League medal by progressing past another strong Mancunian team. He will threaten with his pace and guile, but Manuel Pellegrini’s men will need to be wary of his diagonal runs – if he starts.
Games: 39 Goals: 17 Assists: 9
5/10 Cesc Fabregas (Position: Centre Midfield)
Cesc Fabregas has played superlative football under Gerardo Martino this season. The newly appointed manager has elicited a 'more intelligent' style, claims Fabregas, which has enabled the Spanish playmaker to manifest the excellent form he showcased at Arsenal. The 26-year-old may play further forward against Pellegrini’s side as the former Gunner, who scored two goals against Manchester City during his eight year tenure in North London, will have his eye on inducing an upset at the Etihad.
Games: 37 Goals: 13 Assists: 20
6/10 Andres Iniesta (Position: Centre Midfield)
Speculation was rife at the nascent stages of this campaign, seeing the midfield maestro linked to City’s rivals Manchester United. The Spaniard committed to a three-year-contract shortly thereafter, quashing any rumours of a potential shock departure. Iniesta has won everything in football, and is bitterly remembered by Chelsea fans for his last minute winner in a Champions League Semi-final against the Blues in 2009. The 29-year-old is still an important figure under Martino, as he flaunted his wizardry in Barcelona’s 6-0 thumping of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Games: 36 Goals: 1 Assists: 6
7/10 Xavi (Position: Centre Midfield)
The playmaking veteran has experienced fluctuations under the wing of Gerardo Martino. Whilst he has looked somewhat laboured this season, he has produced moments of magic. There are questions surrounding whether the 34-year-old will start at the Etihad, as he did not feature in Barcelona’s recent opposition trouncing in La Liga. Nevertheless, Xavi will provide an added calm and ball retention capacity for the Catalans. He scored an important goal against Arsenal that saw Barcelona progress through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2011, and will intend on replicating that feat against the Sky Blues.
Games: 31 Goals: 3 Assists: 5
8/10 Dani Alves (Position: Right Back)
Renowned as one of the more attacking full-backs in modern football, Dani Alves has been paramount to Barcelona's recent history. Despite lacking somewhat defensively, the 30-year-old has compensated for his frailties at the back through his attacking work rate. The Brazilian hasn't featured as much under Martino but will still provide pace and perpetual assaults down the flanks, if chosen to represent the Spanish side. He featured in Barcelona's Champions League final against Manchester United in 2011 and delivered a stellar performance to claim his second medal in the European competition.
Games: 29 Goals: 2 Assists: 2
9/10 Sergio Busquets (Position: Centre Midfield)
The Spaniard is regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe. At 25-year-old, he spends the majority of his time sitting in front of the central defence and occasionally filling in gaps left by the marauding full-backs if needed. Busquets will be used to cancel out prospective City attacks – especially on the counter-attack – through relentless pressure towards opposition forwards. It is worth noting that he is prone to theatrics on occasion, so the Sky Blues have to be wary of reacting to Sergio, as he might react in a way which induces a costly booking.
Games: 32 Goals: 3 Assists: 1
10/10 Jordi Alba (Position: Left Back)
The 24-year-old has struggled to demonstrate his true capacity this season, after a three month injury lay-off at the beginning of the campaign. Having said that, the Spaniard will be forced to recover his form against Manchester City – assuming he is not replaced by makeshift utility Brazilian, Adriano. The Spanish full-back is often confused for a winger, as he is constantly ploughing forward and providing width for the Catalan outfit. He could be a dangerous outlet for Barcelona if given the opportunity to move forward.
Games: 17 Goals: 0 Assists: 1
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