Pep Guardiola returns to the Camp Nou as his Manchester City side take on Barcelona in the Champions League group stage this midweek (7.45pm Wednesday on BT Sport 2).
Barcelona, who have been crowned kings of Europe on five occasions (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015) have amassed six points from six in their opening two matches of the campaign. They thrashed Celtic 7-0 in Catalonia before coming from behind to defeat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 in Germany last time out.
Barca have not been at their best domestically, with Alaves and Celta Vigo having already inflicted defeat on the La Liga title holders in the Spanish top flight this term. They did bounce back with a 4-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend. That encounter aside, Lionel Messi’s (pictured) absence through injury clearly had a negative impact on Barcelona’s attacking output and control of matches, but the loss of Ivan Rakitic and poor form of Sergio Busquets have also had a detrimental effect in recent weeks. Having said that, Luis Enrique’s men remain a formidable force and they will take some stopping in front of their own supporters on Wednesday night.
Man City have four points to their name in the Champions League so far. A 4-0 triumph over Borussia Monchengladbach was followed by an entertaining and topsy-turvy 3-3 draw against Celtic at Parkhead prior to the international break. They are without a win in their last two Premier League games. A 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the start of the month and a 1-1 draw with Everton at the weekend has seen their lead at the top of the table disappear. City were a little unfortunate not to pick up all three points against the Toffees, though. They created the better opportunities and also missed two penalties and have patently improved since Guardiola replaced Manuel Pellegrini in the dugout at the Etihad Stadium in the summer.
Messi made his comeback from injury in the defeat of Deportivo on Saturday and will probably start against City, with Neymar and Luis Suarez completing an extraordinarily talented front three. Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti are also fit again following spells on the sidelines, but Jasper Cillessen, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba look set to miss out. Luis Enrique has used a 3-4-3 setup at times this campaign – including against Depor at the weekend – but could move back to a 4-3-3 in order to bolster the midfield against the Premier League table-toppers.
Man City are able to call upon the services of Kevin De Bruyne once again after the Belgium international recovered from a hamstring injury last week, with Vincent Kompany also available for selection once more. Guardiola employed an unconventional 3-2-2-3 formation in the clash with Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon but is likely to line his team up in a more traditional setup this midweek. The absence of right-back Bacary Sagna through injury could persuade the former Barcelona boss to use a three-man defence once more.
Our Preview’s Barcelona v Man City Betting Tips Conclusion
Our preview’s betting tips’ verdict is that this clash between Barcelona and Manchester City could end in a draw. While Barca are probably stronger than Man City when both teams are operating at full capacity, City could take advantage of Barca’s recent troubles and pick up a point.
The hosts are likely to see more of the ball but will perhaps not dominate it to the extent they are used to, with both sides having the weapons to do damage on the counter-attack as well as in phases of established possession. We expect that the correct score could be 2-2 and that Raheem Sterling may prove a good choice for anytime goalscorer.
- Betting Tip: You can back the draw at 19/5 (almost 4/1) with either BetVictor or Unibet. For those wanting a more speculative angle, then Barcelona and Manchester City to draw 2-2 is a best price of 14/1 with William Hill or BetVictor.
- Betting Tip: We are backing Raheem Sterling to score at anytime @ best price 5/1 with Betfred.
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Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.