It’s been a busy week for Jose, taking down Barcelona as well Arsene Wenger. Even if, as Mourinho asserts, Barca come to Manchester in reduced circumstances, what remains is sufficiently potent to blow away most teams.
This tie has cast City as star gazers hosting the great Leo Messi and his cast of champions. They are the new kids experiencing this elevation for the first time. Barcelona wandered into Manchester to the manor born, seeing out a routine engagement as if they were popping into the supermarket to pick up some groceries.
No-one is asking Messi how he will cope with the City threat. The questions are all framed from the opposite perspective. I suspect we are about to discover how shallow are the interpretations of Barcelona in fading light.
Okay, they have not won the Champions League since 2011, but it took a monumental fluke by Chelsea to knock them out at the semi-final stage in 2012 and a freak storm by Bayern Munich to flatten them at the same point last year.
Mourinho throws aside the joint leaders of La Liga as they come off a 5-0 win in which Messi cemented his position as the greatest goal scorer Spain has known; take that Alfredo di Stefano, Johann Cruyff, Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Raul, Cristiano et al.
City froze when confronted by Bayern in the group stages at the Etihad. Yes they recovered brilliantly at the Allianz but in a dead rubber as far as Bayern were concerned. They have the tools to trouble any team, but will need to break free of the sense of occasion if they are to build an advantage against Barca, something they failed to do against Chelsea in the league as well as Bayern.
Barca might have surrendered a little of the sense of invincibility they one projected but not their affinity for the ball. They still dominate possession like no other team in the history of the game in important matches, a feature City must disrupt tonight.
As well as Messi, Barca can call upon the likes of Sanchez, Fabregas, Pedro, Tello, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and a bloke called Neymar. They can’t all play at the same time, of course, but they are all available and might just represent the best ‘worst’ team in the history of sport.
- More about:
- Manchester City