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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions