New Order? MAN CITY v BARCELONA

Arguably the most glamorous game in the club’s history, Manchester City finally shape up to face Barcelona in the Champions League last 16, after 64 days of drooling anticipation.

Tonight's the night - Is it going to be alright? City take on Barcelona in the Champions League

Tonight’s the night – Is it going to be alright? City take on Barcelona in the Champions League

Of all the teams in the world, it’s the men from the Nou Camp who get the juices flowing when it comes to delivering the beautiful game in its purest form.

It could get Messi - can City control the world's best footballer - and no I know it not Ronaldo!

It could get Messi – can City control the world’s best footballer – and no, it’s not Ronaldo!

After being edged out of the Group D winners spot by reigning European Champions Bayern Munich, City were always going to be up against top class opposition, and they don’t come much classier than messrs Messi, Neymar, Iniesta, Pedro, Sanchez…the list goes on.

City, having made it through the group stages of the CL at the third attempt, are finally seated at the top table of European football with the tie of the round.

What a sight - Lionel Messi training at the Etihad. Dare we dream of a day when he wears City's colours?  Courtesy @MCFC

What a sight – Lionel Messi training at the Etihad. Dare we dream of a day when he wears City’s colours? Courtesy @MCFC

They’re not exactly lacking glitz themselves with the likes of Kompany, Fernandinho, Silva, Yaya, Nasri and Negredo, albeit Aguero, the Argentine jewel in the crown, is sidelined until the 2nd leg.

He's back - Fernandinho should start against Barcelona

He’s back – Fernandinho should start against Barcelona

All eyes will focus on the Etihad Stadium to see if a new order is about to dislodge, the regal masters of the CL format. Manuel Pellegrini has had the measure of Barcelona on four occasions in his nine seasons in La Liga, drawing another four, but losing 14 times.

Some would have you believe that Barca are in comparative decline, nonetheless, they sit aloft La Liga and will be contesting the Copa Del Rey against arch rivals Real Madrid.

The Catalonian masters may have been humbled by Bayern last season but they are formidable opponents, especially with the return of both Messi and Neymar from medium term injuries.

Not happy - The Spanish media feared for Barcelona when the draw was made last December

Not happy – The Spanish media feared for Barcelona when the draw was made last December

City will be buoyed by the return of their own highly influential Brazilian, Fernandinho. Recalled to the Brazil squad in the countdown to the World Cup, the box-to-box midfielder doesn’t grab headlines like Neymar, but he’s more influential to City than the Barca striker is to the Catalan giants.

City’s ‘water carrier’ is an imperative if Pellegrini is to deliver silverware – be it in the singular, but more likely, the plural this season.

Fears surrounding his absence had been slightly quelled by Javi Garcia’s excellent showing against Chelsea. Having both available will help dilute the undoubted potency of the ‘Blaugrana’ attack.

Neymar returns - the talented Brazilian forward will test Kompany & Co.

Neymar returns – the talented Brazilian forward will test Kompany & Co.

For City’s other powerhouse midfielder, Yaya, it promises to be a strange affair as he faces the club that he really didn’t want to leave in the first place, for the first time.

The Ivorian says he has nothing to prove against a team that he will always have in his heart, but cometh the hour, cometh the colossus and Yaya thrives on the big stage.

City and Barca have never met in a competitive fixture. It’s hardly surprising given the decades of barren scrubland that the Sky Blues frequented as the Spaniards ploughed the most fertile of furrows.

Big time - Yaya Toure thrives in the limelight

Big time – Yaya Toure thrives in the limelight

Inspired by the peerless Pep Guardiola, Barcelona reigned supreme with perhaps the definitive club team of all time between 2008-2011, winning the CL twice and being edged in a semi-final by a certain Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.

This is a fixture that was light years away prior to Sheikh Mansour’s investment which began in the summer of 2008. It’s taken approximately 66 months and a mountain of cash, but City come into this tie on a level playing field.

The loss of Aguero is significant, but City should still have enough in their armoury to trouble a Barca backline that is by no means impenetrable.

Field Marshall - Captain Kompany needs to bring his fighting spirit and inspire his team

Field Marshall – Captain Kompany needs to bring his fighting spirit and inspire his team

Even with Captain Fantastic, Vincent Kompany, commanding City’s Ministry of Defence, the same can be said of the hosts. The pace and movement of the Barca attack, the guile of Iniesta and the speedy Sanchez will undoubtedly trouble a City side shorn of an in-form James Milner through suspension, and young centre back Matija Nastasic ruled out by injury.

World class - City will need to keep Iniesta under wraps and win the midfield battle

World class – City will need to keep Iniesta under wraps and win the midfield battle

It could become a shoot-out which will thrill the neutrals. Pellegrini’s resolute stance never to compromise his attacking style is mirrored by Gerardo Martino. Conversely City’s greatest take out from the game could be a score line that reads ‘…Barcelona NIL’ as away goals could be vital.

City have goals in them every game. If Barcelona needed to force the 2nd leg in three weeks time, who would bet against an Aguero-led attack hitting back on the counter and grabbing the glory.

Hail the hero - Sergio Aguero should be back for the critical2nd Leg at the Nou Camp

Hail the hero – Sergio Aguero should be back for the critical
2nd Leg at the Nou Camp

Only Pablo Zabaleta remains from City’s last visit to the Nou Camp, back in August 2009, when a Martin Petrov strike earned a 1-0 pre-season victory in front of an astonishing and, equally astonished, crowd of 94,123.

Sole survivor - Pablo Zabaleta is the only City player from the 1-0 Nou Camp win back in 2009

Sole survivor – Pablo Zabaleta is the only City player from the 1-0 Nou Camp win back in 2009

A similar outcome would be more than acceptable at the Etihad. It would give City an advantage and an away goal in Spain would leave Barcelona needing at least three to win on the night.

Simply playing Barcelona in a competitive fixture is like a dream come true for a mass of City fans who never ever thought they’d see the day.

Pellegrini and his men view it differently, and rightly so. This is a winnable tie and one that, if negotiated successfully, will leave any prospective quarter final opponent wanting to steer clear of City.

Can Manuel plot Barcelona's downfall? - Trust Our MP!

Can Manuel plot Barcelona’s downfall? – Trust Our MP!

Barcelona have been where City long to be. In Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, City have two of the prime architects who crafted Barca into such an irresistible and all-conquering force.

As City’s CEO and Director of Football, the duo are doing more than just replicating the Barca blueprint for success. The Etihad Campus will be Barca’s famed La Masia training facility and much more when it opens for business.

Folk scoffed at what City termed a ‘holistic’ approach when Manuel Pellegrini arrived last summer but the potential fruits of success are there for all to see. A domestic treble is a distinct possibility, but it’s the ‘Holy Grail’ of Champions League utopia that will prove the biggest obstacle to a most unlikely quadruple.

Whatever the outcome, Manchester City versus Barcelona will be a sumptuous occasion to savour and, for those privileged to be there, it will surely be a showpiece that will never be forgotten, come win lose or draw.

Formidable foe - if you're going to win the CL you have to beat the best of the best

Formidable foe – if you’re going to win the CL you have to beat the best of the best

It’s an achievement in itself that the game is too close to call but that cannot and will not be the sum total of City’s ambition.

Manuel Pellegrini – precise and pragmatic – is a man on a mission and who would bet against him leading Manchester City to hitherto unchartered heights?

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

@djwskyblu

32 Comments

  1. February 17, 2014  10:36 pm by Fifthcolumnblue Reply

    More glamourous than Port Vale? Give over! ;)

    Goosebumps, butterflies and nails down to the quick already

    • February 17, 2014  10:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sales of incontinence pants flowing like there's no tomorrow...

  2. February 17, 2014  10:43 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    I've got goose bumps just reading that ... Thanks David . I would take 0-0 now but are the two top scoring teams in Europe really going to produce zero goals. Nope ! .. I hope MP goes 4 - 2 - 3 - 1 to match them in midfield .
    I think we should play Narsi in behind Negredo to occupy Busketts ... Fascinating!! . Glory awaits the brave .

    • February 17, 2014  10:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      Whatever the outcome - obviously a nailed on 3-0 for City (!) - we have to sit there, stand when City start scoring - and drink it in! Whoever would have believed...?

      That said the players won't see it the same as the fans - thankfully - another day at the office and a successful one at that!

  3. February 17, 2014  10:57 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    This....is.....what....it's......all......about!
    Embrace it, fellow Blues, this could be something that becomes a regular item on the menu.
    Down the line, 'This Is What It Means To Be City' could take on a whole new meaning and complexion.....Bring it on!

    • February 17, 2014  11:08 pm by David Walker Reply

      I NEVER thought I'd see the day so, unless I meet my maker before 7.45pm tomorrow night I will indeed see the day MCFC hosted BARCELONA in a competitive game...and boy will it be competitive!

  4. February 18, 2014  1:58 am by Paul Reply

    This is what it's about those butterfly's we used to get going to elland road, down to the potteries against Port vale, so what's the differance Barcalona Nou Camp did I just say that shit where's the toilet paper. We are still following a dream and that's what us City supporters have always done, so cross your fingers, say a pray and hey the dream will keep happening. C'mon you blues show them what it's like to be City and be supported by the best fans in all the world!. Great write up again David look forward to the winning speach

    • February 18, 2014  6:21 am by David Walker Reply

      Like you I hope I'll be writing about a City win, but lest we forget it'll only be HT in the overall tie. A clean sheet would be invaluable but perhaps unlikely tonight.

  5. February 18, 2014  2:50 am by Jim Land Reply

    And at last a City European match is being shown live on free-to-air TV here. I'll be up extra early to watch this one - before breakfast!

    • February 18, 2014  6:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Indeed - even my old Mum can watch this time around , just as she did when we beat Chelsea 2-0 on Saturday. Same again please Manuel!

  6. February 18, 2014  3:28 am by Pete Lynch Reply

    This is what it feels to be city, this is what its like to be small.......great piece David, thank you

    • February 18, 2014  6:24 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for feedback Pete - let's see how we compare with European football royalty!

  7. February 18, 2014  4:33 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    I don't think I have been this excited/nervous before a City game since April 26th, 1969. Part of me can't believe we are playing at this level, another part just wants us not to embarass ourselves and yet another says that we can actually do this and win the tie. Tonight at 21:45 local time I will be glued to the TV and just hope that my nerves hang on till the end of the game.
    I have sent a representative - my son has flown over for his first ever game at Etihad. The last time he saw Iniesta and his mates was at the World Cup final in 2010 :-) I just hope that he brings back a victory. If we win, maybe I will think about shelling out 500 quid to come for the quarter final!

    • February 18, 2014  6:41 am by David Walker Reply

      I am fortunate to be able to take my son tonight & then go to the Nou Camp my wife & friends. When City were languishing under Stuart Pearce I said if ever we played Barcelona in a competitive game at the Nou Camp I would move heaven & earth to get there. I never imagined it would ever happen. I hope your son has a memorable trip for all the right reasons. The one ting I do envy you is that beautiful Middle Eastern weather - it's been a week & boy am I missing that sunshine!

      Here's hoping to an illustrious victory, progress to the QF & a face-to-face meeting at the Etihad.

      • February 18, 2014  6:54 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

        Would love to meet you at the Etihad. There are so many people I would like to meet, I might miss the game :-)

        By the way, we do get lousy weather in the Middle East as well. I don't know about Sharm, but this weekend in Tel Aviv was cold, wet and windy.

        • February 18, 2014  7:35 am by David Walker Reply

          Bad planning to miss the game to meet a man with a great face for radio! As for that beautiful weather maybe it's a Sharm thing - it was raining in Dubai while we were soaking up 28 degrees. We also had the benefit of Bein Sports and watched City live in the hotel room.

  8. February 18, 2014  9:08 am by Guvnor Reply

    Come on City, just smash em to shut Maureen up

    • February 18, 2014  9:09 am by David Walker Reply

      That would be nice...and then smash Maureen in person, home & away in the QF!

      • February 18, 2014  2:01 pm by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

        I want Scum in the QF, just to really rub their faces in it!!

        • February 19, 2014  7:28 pm by David Walker Reply

          If we get that far I'm sure we will. 4-1 or 4-2 City in the Nou Camp!

  9. February 18, 2014  10:00 am by carol Reply

    absolutely LOVE it Davy, thanks. I cannot wait, not even full of nerves this time, dont know if thats a good thing or not, we shall see!

    • February 19, 2014  7:29 pm by David Walker Reply

      Apparently bad. So be full of nerves in 3 weeks and see City confound all their critics at the Nou Camp.

  10. February 18, 2014  12:41 pm by Graceyboy Blue Reply

    Great build up piece once again Dave. I was in Sharm last week soaking up the sun watching us smash Chelsea on BEIN TV. All the Ruskies were going ape as "their Romans" team got a good City Bashing. I can't get to the game tonight as the boss is on nights so i'm on Kiddy Watch - Gutted. WIll be their in spirit and watching on TV (with audio muted so I don't have to listen to Tyldsley) and listen to Mr Cheeseman talk us through a battle Ive so longed for

    • February 19, 2014  8:18 pm by David Walker Reply

      First half hasn't quite gone to plan but Barcelona aren't invincible...far from it.

  11. February 18, 2014  4:22 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

    "In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it's more dangerous to lose than to win"

    George Bernard Shaw

    • February 19, 2014  8:21 pm by David Walker Reply

      More dangerous for who? That said we can go out into the Nou Camp like Gladiators - underdogs - with a point to prove. No time for feint hearted but with Sergio in, MDM out and MP sending us out to attack attack attack I WILL be sticking some Euros on a City win on the night and overall.

      Now, where's my meds...'Nurse...NURSE...!'

  12. February 18, 2014  4:34 pm by Susan Richardson Reply

    Thanks David the excitement jumps from your prose. Bring it on. VK and the boys won't let us down.

    • February 19, 2014  8:16 pm by David Walker Reply

      It's HT and we're 2-0 down. OK, Barcelona aren't Gillingham, QPR or little old Watford, but it's all relative to the City side of any given moment. We can still do this!

  13. February 19, 2014  9:53 am by blue boy Reply

    Why MP didn't go for it, only god knows? It's his style of play is it not, did nobody tell him to watch how Munich did it last year 7 0 wasn't it on aggre.
    That style of play last night, you might aswell of just stuck with RM in charge and saved some money, the waving of cards blaming the ref holistic approach? Should of played your own style of football instead of listening to Kidd, Marwood's shill, because that's not the football MP plays watching Malaga last season, nothing to lose last night going all out attack which makes me think who is picking this team? One up front at home, come on...

    • February 19, 2014  7:27 pm by David Walker Reply

      Let's see how it goes down in the Nou Camp. City could surprise the football world...it makes a nice change to be written off as the underdogs, but even underdogs can bite.

  14. February 19, 2014  8:52 pm by blue boy Reply

    If UEFA have anything to do with it MP won't be stood on the sideline for that one, it's going to be his number 3 being a Manchester lad Kidd shouting the odds, lets hope he can have a chat with Begiristain and Vieira to influenced his selection in that one like he did in America.
    We were underdogs last night, but someone left the chains on and only one dog in the yard.

    • February 20, 2014  12:20 am by David Walker Reply

      Nothing to lose on March 12 - NO FEAR...DO IT.

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