Man City will face a familiar foe when they host Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 encounter on Tuesday (19:45 GMT, live on ITV1).
City come into the match having righted a five-match winless streak in all competitions with two high-scoring victories over the last couple of weeks. They are second in the Premier League table, with 55 points from 16 wins, seven draws and three defeats.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side blew Newcastle away with three goals inside the opening 21 minutes of their eventual 5-0 victory at the Etihad on Saturday. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the second minute, before Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko quickly bolstered City’s advantage. David Silva added two more in the second half.
The victory saw the Citizens move to within five points of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table and renewed optimism that they will yet be able to catch the Blues and thus successfully defend the title they won in Pellegrini’s first season at the helm. After some recent struggles, it also served as a timely reminder of the quality they possess.
Man City have failed to progress further than the last 16 in their previous three Champions League campaigns and Pellegrini, a previous semi-finalist with Villarreal and quarter-finalist with Malaga, will be desperate to lead his side at least a round further this time. In attack, especially, he has players who should be capable of achieving a little more.
Pellegrini will definitely be without the injured James Milner (knee) and suspended Yaya Toure for this game but looks to have no further injury doubts at this time.
Barcelona travel to England on the back of a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga on Saturday, which brought an end to their 11-match winning streak in all competitions. They lie second in La Liga, with 56 points from 18 wins, two draws and four defeats.
Luis Enrique made a couple of changes to his normal starting XI for the visit of Malaga but it was still a very strong Barcelona side, including Lionel Messi (pictured), Luis Suarez and Neymar up front, who took to the Camp Nou pitch on Saturday. They were frustrated by a determined and well-organised Malaga side who defended stoutly and attacked with great purpose.
After some mixed displays earlier in the season, it did seem that Barca had found their rhythm prior to Saturday’s defeat. Talk of dissent within the ranks had calmed and they had been in formidable goalscoring form, notching an average of 3.82 goals per match during their winning streak. They still have what is comfortably the best defensive record in Spain.
It will be interesting to see if Enrique continues with his more direct approach until the end of the campaign. It was around this time last season that former coach Gerardo Martino began to sacrifice a little verticality in favour of greater control of the ball in big matches. With the addition of Suarez, Enrique can perhaps afford to be a tad braver this time around.
Enrique will definitely be without the injured Douglas (hamstring) and Thomas Vermaelen (hamstring) but looks to have no further injury concerns ahead of the trip to the Etihad.
Man City v Barcelona Betting Tips
These two sides met at the same stage of last year’s competition, with Barcelona winning 4-1 on aggregate thanks to a 2-0 win at the Etihad and a 2-1 triumph at the Camp Nou. Those were their first meetings in official competition. Man City have won just three of their previous 11 matches against Spanish opposition in European competition.
City won one, drew one and lost one in their group stage matches at the Etihad and come into this fixture having won three, drawn one and lost two in their last six matches on home soil in all competitions. In the likes of Aguero and David Silva they boast top-quality offensive talents, but their recent defensive record is not particularly impressive.
Saturday’s defeat aside, Barcelona have been in excellent form in recent times and it is difficult to imagine that their front three will not score at least once against a City defence who kept just one clean sheet during the group stage and for whom Saturday’s clean sheet was their first in their last 10 matches in all competitions.
We expect to see an entertaining match, with a score draw the most likely outcome.
- Back the draw on the ‘match result and both teams to score market’ @ best odds of 18/5 with BetVictor.
- Messi scored eight times in six appearances during the group stage and also scored in both legs of Barcelona’s round-of-16 victory over City in last year’s competition. In addition, he has found the back of the net in eight of his last 10 matches in all competitions. Back Lionel Messi to score at anytime @ 11/10 with Bet365.