Manchester City v Barcelona: 'I've beaten Barelona before and we can do it again now' - Jesus Navas

City’s hopes of Champions League progress lie in winning tomorrow’s home first leg

How many times have you beaten Barcelona? Jesus Navas ponders the question. “Three times... at least.”

Barcelona are the greatest, cleanest brand in world football. They are the Welsh rugby team of the 1970s, the West Indies of Viv Richards and Michael Holding, the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1960, their great manager Helenio Herrera addressed journalists at Birmingham Airport with the words: “You English have much physical strength, but no method, no technique.” The script demands that they do not lose.

And yet the Catalans do lose and in England they lose quite a lot. Their first appearance in England came in October 1957 when they faced Birmingham City in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. They lost 4-3.

Since then they have been beaten at Sheffield Wednesday, Chelsea, Leeds, Liverpool, Ipswich, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Newcastle. Only one English club, Liverpool, have ever won at the Nou Camp against Barcelona. One thing is clear: if Manchester City are to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the winning will have to be done tomorrow.

You imagine Navas and the man he played alongside, at both Seville and now in Manchester, will be City’s most obvious weapon at the Etihad Stadium. In March 2011 they combined to score Seville’s equaliser against Barça in the Ramon Pizjuan. Alvaro Negredo muscled his way past Dani Alves and cut the ball back for Navas to head home.

Usually, it has been the other way round. Negredo remarked he was so certain where Navas would put the ball that he would start his run without even looking up to watch the cross being struck.

“We have known each other for a long time,” said Navas. “We work together every day and we enjoy our football. But it is not only Alvaro, we have plenty of dangerous strikers for Barcelona to face. They won’t enjoy coming to Manchester. They will find we are a really difficult team to beat here. We are playing very well, creating chances, scoring a lot of goals. Barça won’t be happy to be here.”

Saturday’s emphatic victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup has soothed nerves that were starting to become frayed at the Etihad. Manuel Pellegrini suggested the storm that had forced the postponement of Wednesday night’s game with Sunderland had given his players a breathing space.

“The team wanted revenge,” said the Manchester City manager. “Not just for the League defeat by Chelsea but for the draw at Norwich. I didn’t think the team was fresh enough for those games.

“The moment the game against Sunderland was postponed, it gave them some relief. We could have a training session on Thursday and Friday and we haven’t been able to do that for two and a half months. That’s why I was absolutely sure we were going to play as well as we did against Chelsea.

“This will be two good teams coming together. It’s good for the fans, good for everyone. I love football, I love good matches and I don’t have any fear about playing Barcelona because this side has to develop the mentality to play against important teams. They have a great team and the best player in the world but this is a chance to show how good we are.”

Lionel Messi has scored only once in England – the goal came in the European Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley, in which he seemed utterly mesmeric. Messi warmed up for his return to the Champions League with two goals as Barcelona destroyed Rayo Vallecano 6-0 in the Nou Camp.

“What’s he like on the pitch?” Navas gave a little laugh. “Very difficult to stop, to be honest with you. You have to put pressure on him early, make sure you are close to him when he gets the ball – and don’t let him create space.”

There are suggestions that Barcelona are not the club they were. This season they have been beaten by Bilbao and Valencia and been unable to shake off the challenge from Atletico Madrid.

“They are still alive in all competitions,” said Navas. “Maybe they are not playing as well as they did three or four years ago but that’s normal; rivals study the way you play and find tactics to counteract your strengths. Cycles in football don’t last for ever.”

Navas pointed out that the Spanish champions are vulnerable to set pieces and counter-attacks, although Pellegrini’s plan is not to draw Barcelona in but to attack them from the off.

Even this far out from kick-off, it seems a dangerous strategy, especially as Fernandinho, the midfielder best equipped to shield Manchester City’s back four, is unlikely to start.

“The reality is that this type of game has served us really well this season,” said Navas. “It is a style that we particularly enjoy but it will be difficult to impose it on Barcelona because they also want a lot of the ball and it will be very intense on our side.”

It was a plan that came apart spectacularly against Bayern Munich, who cantered to a  3-1 win in October. “That wasn’t one of our best performances,” said Navas. “They scored very early on and that made things very difficult for us but you have to remember that in Munich we played very well after going behind and won playing our own style of football.

“Experience will be a factor in this tie but I hope it is not the decisive factor.”

Suggested Topics
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015