“La semana magica” read La Vanguardia’s headline on Monday, above a piece reflecting boundless local optimism here ahead of the arrival of both Manchester City and Real Madrid in the thrilling week to come.
City will land in Catalonia on Tuesday to find that Luis Enrique’s Barcelona players have cast away the gloom that accompanied them into England’s rainy North-west three weeks ago. A home defeat to Malaga preceded the Spaniards’ arrival. They have won every game since.
City’s board has had so many preoccupations – trying to get the New York franchise rolling and looking for the wheels that seem to have fallen off the season after Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Burnley – that the small matter of reversing the 2-1 home defeat in the Champions League round of 16 first leg seems almost to have been forgotten.
It is to the big names – Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Touré – that City will look in the Nou Camp on Wednesday because one of the unsettling characteristics of this team is that when these players do not deliver, City don’t.
Appropriate, then, that it should be Silva, their player of the season by a comfortable distance, who expressed hope that Schalke’s 4-3 win over Real in the Bernabeu last week – futile though it proved to be terms of Champions League progress – was a source of optimism. “Everybody wrote Schalke off before they played Real Madrid but they won 4-3 and could have scored again, which would have put them through – nobody predicted that,” Silva said.
“Not many thought PSG could beat Chelsea, especially with only 10 men for so long, so I know that everything can happen, not only in the Champions League but in every game. Everyone is expecting Barça to go through but, hopefully, we can give a strong performance and we don’t have any kind of pressure on us because we are behind and playing away.”
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