Sergio Aguero, who will spearhead Manchester City’s attack against Barcelona tonight, has spoken of why he wept tears of frustration after the injury which destroyed the start of the year for him.
Aguero was visibly distressed as he hobbled from the the Etihad field early into the match against Everton in December, with what he knew instinctively was a serious injury – and turned out to be knee ligament damage. He missed eight games and six weeks of football.
“I just wanted to keep on playing and I couldn’t,” said Aguero, whose injury-riddled last few seasons saw him play only 45 minutes across the two legs of last season’s round of 16 toe with tonight’s opposition. “I felt powerless. The match had barely started and I just wanted to keep going and helping my team. So realising I’d injured my knee and would probably face a spell on the sidelines really hit me. I felt something had happened straight away. I had no clue how bad it was but I knew something wasn’t right. At that time I felt strong and really happy with my game so it was frustrating to say the least.”
Aguero is paired alongside Edin Dzeko in an ambitious, attack-minded Manuel Pellegrini formation tonight. The starting XI means the Chilean is unlikely to be accused of a defence-minded outlook, as he was when City lost 2-0 to Barcelona here in last February’s first leg. Dzeko’s presence may reflect his own strong performance when he arrived as a substitute in that game. City looked stronger, despite being down to ten men by that stage.
Aguero said City – who have never gone beyond this stage of the Champions League – are a stronger force than last year. “We’re confident we’ll stand out,” he told tonight’s match programme. “When many thought we were down and out in this competition, we defeated Bayern and Roma in Italy [in the group stage.] That shows we are growing as a force in Europe and we can do it again. Barca made it difficult last year because they kept the ball so well and that’s one of their main strengths and that made it diffcult for us to dominate the game. We wanted to attack them more but we weren’t able to reach the final third of the pitch as often as we wanted.
“This is a new game and we aren’t the same as we were last season. They aren’t either. Each year we get more experienced in European competitions. That’s why we were the team that nobody wanted to face in the last draw. Trust me, no other team wanted to play against us at t this stage and that speaks volumes about our evolution.”
The teams line up like this tonight:
Manchester City (4-2-2-2) Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernando, Milner; Nasri, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero.
Barcelona (4-3-3) Ter Stegan; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, J Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
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