Doggone…do City have the bite to beat Barca? BARCELONA v MAN CITY UCL

Manchester City will adopt the unaccustomed role of underdog when confronted by a cacophony of Catalan hostility in the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.

It’s a tag not often attached to a City side brimming with world class talent and lofty ambitions to dominate not just English football, but the European continent as a whole.

It may not fit Sheikh Mansour’s grand vision of years to come, but being written off does have its benefits for Manuel Pellegrini’s team.

Underdog - does Pellegrini's City side have the pedigree to get past Barcelona? Courtesy @MCFC

Underdog – does Pellegrini’s City side have the pedigree to get past Barcelona? Courtesy @MCFC

Since arriving from Malaga last summer, the affable Chilean has been burdened with limitless expectations and scrutinised like no other manager by a warped UK media corps, willing him and the Abu Dhabi ‘project’ to failure.

The Champions League crown is the prize most eagerly sought by City’s generous benefactor and yet, perversely, Pellegrini is under little or no pressure, as he seeks to reverse a cruel and undeserved 2-0 1st leg deficit.

FC Barcelona’s official website revelled in the Spanish giant’s victory at the Etihad three weeks ago, proclaiming progress to the quarter finals was ‘…guaranteed’.

Can Yaya help pull off a stunning City win at the Nou Camp?   Courtesy @MCFC

Can Yaya help pull off a stunning City win at the Nou Camp? Courtesy @MCFC

It’s a view shared by 99.9% of the pundits/experts/prats – call them what you will, depending on your pro or anti-City stance – but for once, it suits City that so little is expected of them.

Barcelona’s win, courtesy of an extremely dubious collection of Swedish turnips – i.e. the match officials – via a Lionel Messi penalty and a last minute strike by Dani Alves, would appear to give them an unassailable lead.

Like City, Barcelona’s best form of defence is attack. Like City, Barcelona’s back line can be exposed and exploited, with the centre back position the focus of any vulnerability.

Barca have been in bad form recently losing two La Liga games to 'inferior' opponents  Courtesy @MCFC

Barca have been in bad form recently losing two La Liga games to ‘inferior’ opponents Courtesy @MCFC

Gerard Pique should be fit to return after injury alongside Javier Mascherano or even the veteran skipper Carles Puyol.

Puyol, for so long the embodiment of El Barca, announced his pending departure from the Nou Camp last week, with the wear and tear of life at the pinnacle of La Liga finally proving too much after 19 years.

Irrespective of who plays, none of them had the ‘pleasure’ of coming up against Sergio Aguero at the Etihad.

Can Sergio dump Barca on their backside? Courtesy @MCFC

Can Sergio dump Barca on their backside? Courtesy @MCFC

With 26 goals from 26 appearances this season and more than three hours of game time since returning from a hamstring injury, the Sergio Show is ready to ignite once again.

Even a ring rusty Aguero had a decisive role to play when City collected their first silverware of the season at Wembley. His deft ball control and pass to Aleksander Kolarov was instrumental in Samir Nasri’s wonder strike against Sunderland.

Nasri himself, now reproducing the form seen in his finest Arsenal days, was only a second half substitute against Barcelona in Manchester, due a combination of a lack of match fitness and tactical considerations.

SAM - Nasri's surface to air missile gave City the lead at Wembley recently Courtesy @MCFC

SAM – Nasri’s surface to air missile gave City the lead at Wembley recently Courtesy @MCFC

Both the English and Spanish media were quick to suggest that City had been humbled and outclassed against the La Liga champions, when the truth was very different.

Pellegrini’s unconventional team selection with Kolarov deployed as a left sided midfielder in front of Gael Clichy, and Alvaro Negredo as a lone striker had, initially seemed somewhat bemusing.

The 0-2 score line was used as evidence that the sage-like ‘Engineer’ had miscalculated, screwed up… compromised City’s attacking potency. Pellegrini was an easy target for lazy and predictable journalism.

Rumour mill - is it even credible that City could one day sign Messi? Courtesy @MCFC

Rumour mill – is it even credible that City could one day sign Messi? Courtesy @MCFC

Prior to Messi’s conversion of the penalty that should never have been, Barcelona had hardly threatened Joe Hart’s goal.

Going one up and City going a man down with Demichelis’ dismissal changed the dynamic of a game, where Pellegrini had the tactical measure of Gerardo Martino.

Had City continued to frustrate Barca’s attack, who’s to say the men in sky blue wouldn’t have been the only side on the score sheet?

Barring a penalty shoot-out, City are going to need to score three in Barcelona, but with Aguero restored, Nasri firing on all cylinders and David ‘Merlin’ Silva full of trickery, how many of the on screen ‘oracles’ at Sky or ITV Sports, would wager their inflated salaries against a shock City win?

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

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

Pellegrini has very little to lose by sending his team out to attack the favourites with speed and tenacity. Some may consider it to be football suicide if he goes with Aguero, Negredo, Navas, Nasri and Silva from the start.

Both Chelsea and Inter Milan have shown in recent seasons how to go to the Nou Camp and frustrate their hosts with determined resistance and swift counter attacks. That said, neither were two goals adrift at the kick-off.

This time around Pellegrini can also call upon the warhorse, James Milner, suspended for the first game, whereas Demichelis is ruled out, courtesy of his red card at the Etihad. Most City fans would argue that both developments are meritorious.

Defenders of the faith - Joe Hart and Martin Demichelis helped deliver a glorious night for City beating Bayern in Munich. Can they do something similar at the Nou Camp? Courtesy @MCFC

Defenders of the faith – Joe Hart and Martin Demichelis helped deliver a glorious night for City beating Bayern in Munich. Can they do something similar at the Nou Camp? Courtesy @MCFC

Fair to say that Demichelis, derided on the terraces as ‘The Pony Tail’, is viewed with apprehension by the majority of City supporters.

The veteran Argentine is hardly fleet-of-foot and has a propensity to waste possession, but Pellegrini is no fool and continues to select him in preference to the soon-to-depart Joleon Lescott.

It’s not as if MP has an array of centre back riches from which to choose.

Matija Nastasic has still not recovered from injury, but even when fit the Serbian prospect has suffered from ‘second seasonitus’ with a dip in form. He is young and remains a great prospect but he is seemingly out of contention.

Fernandinho could make all the difference on Wednesday night.Courtesy @:MCFC

Fernandinho could make all the difference on Wednesday night.
Courtesy @:MCFC

Javi Garcia has finally emerged as the player City supporters all imagined he would be when he was signed from Benfica. It must be hoped he stays that way and can actually fulfil the role envisaged, that of an ‘upgrade’ on fans’ favourite Nigel De Jong. It’s a very big ask!

Outstanding in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Chelsea, the Spaniard bolstered City’s defence during the League Cup Final win, in his preferred position as a holding midfielder. Both his confidence and his performances suffered when deployed as a stand-in central defender.

The choice is clear for the Nou Camp, it’s Captain Kompany commanding the City rear and inspiring Lescott to deliver a solid, no frills show to limit opportunities for Messi, Neymar, Sanchez, Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta & Co – it’s not asking much is it?

Down but not out - Vincent and Pablo can help prolong City's UCL campaign.Courtesy @MCFC

Down but not out – Vincent and Pablo can help prolong City’s UCL campaign.
Courtesy @MCFC

Aguero could be a profoundly positive factor, but it could fall to a Barcelona old boy to help City power through to an unlikely quarter final berth.

Yaya Toure’s sensational opener in the League Cup Final illustrated his profound worth to City, even when not at the top of his game.

City are so much more effective with the Ivorian in support of the main striker. If Pellegrini opts for a 4-4-2 formation with Aguero and Negredo up top, it will see Yaya in a more restrained role.

Alternatively, Aguero is more suited to a lone striker role than The Beast, who looked too isolated in the first leg in Manchester.

City cannot afford to lose the midfield battle. If Barcelona establish their neat ‘tippy-tappy triangular’ passing game, deny City possession and cause fatigue born of ball-chasing, this game could become a real pain in Spain.  

Get in! - Yaya turns away to get the party started  Courtesy @MCFC

Get in! – Yaya turns away to get the party started Courtesy @MCFC

It’s a tactical riddle and not one that many expect Pellegrini to crack.

At 2-0 down after just 12 minutes in the Allianz Arena, the big money was on City being blitzed by an embarrassingly large margin by Bayern Munich. Who could have foreseen a famous 3-2 win built on City dogged determination and endeavour?

Chile’s only internationally recognised breed of canine – the Chilean Fox Terrier – the Ratonero (Rat Hunter) – is renowned for its effectiveness when set to task.

City must hope that their leader possesses similar traits and the pedigree to steer his underdogs to a ‘best in class’ showing at the Nou Camp.



By David Walker



  1. March 10, 2014  6:07 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    If Wigan can beat City at the Etihad, then why can't City beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp?

    • March 10, 2014  6:21 am by David Walker Reply

      It would be oh so typical City wouldn't it!

  2. March 10, 2014  8:17 am by Graham Ward Reply

    I think we could win in the Nou Camp, but I fear that the margin won't be enough to ensure progress.
    Barca are also hitting a sticky patch, and I heard on a City radio programme last night that there are rumours the coach, Martino, will be sacked before the game.
    Now that would be a back drop!
    Enjoy the trip, David, it's a repeat of the Munich away game, but without the conclusion the final result will bring.

    • March 10, 2014  8:43 am by David Walker Reply

      3-1 City - oh yea of little faith

  3. March 10, 2014  8:49 am by carol Reply

    I truly believe that we need fear no-one if we turn up Davy, fingers crossed

    • March 10, 2014  1:56 pm by David Walker Reply

      Everything crossed - which may explain why I keep falling down Spanish Steps - oops wrong city...that's Roma

  4. March 10, 2014  9:11 am by John Evans TT Reply

    Well two of the 4 monkeys are off PM's back and Wednesday night is shit or bust. With Di Michelis out the equation City's team picks itself with the exception of who partners Aguero? Since his injury Negredo's form has gone to pot.

    Who knows if Yaya's fury yesterday was at his own ineptitude or with the officials? Better he was taken off before being sent off. He was a poor example for the rest of the team, particularly as he was wearing the captains armband.

    I am looking for an inspirational performance from him in the City of Counts.

    Enjoy Las Ramblas Dave

    • March 10, 2014  1:58 pm by David Walker Reply

      Hope so mate! Get the Yaya song going in the rafters of Nou Camp & see if locals want to join in - former Barca icon?

      Maybe not

  5. March 10, 2014  10:29 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    Excellent read. No petulance and a return to our happy smiling team, rise above the stupid decisions and we have our devastatingly good MCFC back and will triumph at the Camp Nou. Enjoy it for all those who'll be back in the Uk

    • March 10, 2014  5:21 pm by David Walker Reply

      We'll do our best to spread the love, especially at 3-0 to City in the 93rd minute

  6. March 10, 2014  11:38 am by Rikki Reply

    It would just be a like City to do Barca away hence.

    • March 10, 2014  5:16 pm by David Walker Reply

      That'd be bloody spot on!

  7. March 10, 2014  11:50 am by James HouseOlogy Reply

    If we go there with a were at Camp Nou, play like underdogs and attack from the off there is no reason why we can't turn this round especially as coming off a poor defeat to Wigan this could be the perfect tonic for the #typicalcity faithful

    • March 10, 2014  5:12 pm by David Walker Reply

      Wouldn't that be nice

  8. March 10, 2014  7:17 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    I really positive and galvanising read after yesterday's 46 minutes of shambolic defending and lack of tempo to test a team of over 65s . Now reality check here , I said a while back that MP has wrongly in my opinion set our priority this season on UCL and perhaps that's the owners ambitions but we simply have not got the strength in depth to maintain a fight on 2 fronts never mind 4 , we are 3 or 4 players short of being able to do that. Now that is not to say that our first 11 can't beat anyone on their day .. But it's asking too much of this squad to do both , one is counter productive against the other . I honestly will not flinch if we wake up on Thurs morning with just the EPL to concentrate on , god knows we already have enough catching up to do .. Not getting that private jet of the Tarmac in Portugal in Jan has cost us more than the airport taxes, MP have relied far to much on DM and cast aside Lescott like a bad penny . That is still my only criticism of him in his first season, which has had so many positives I just feel the season in now starting to slip through our fingers after it promised so much , sorry to seem negative but I still think we need to conquer our own back yard including the likes of Wigan before we take on Europes
    finest & greatest teams.

    • March 10, 2014  11:30 pm by David Walker Reply

      You're right - we should have paid for Mangala & strengthened drive for PL. Thanks

  9. March 10, 2014  7:33 pm by DOUG HENSHAW Reply

    I hope MP doesn't mess this one like he did Sunday. We should just go for it we have nothing to lose. On a good note Demichaos cant play.

    • March 11, 2014  7:00 am by David Walker Reply

      MDM will be a massive loss...for Barcelona!

  10. March 11, 2014  2:21 am by Simon Dear Reply

    Demichaos ... Brilliant !! Don't you just love City fans humour .. 35 years of hurt did that !

    • March 11, 2014  7:01 am by David Walker Reply

      Demichaos - very droll! Painfully true.

  11. March 11, 2014  9:08 am by James HouseOlogy Reply

    I think one things we can all agree on, is that if we lose like we did against pie eaters then serious questions have to be asked. However if lose but show passion and want and give a good go then that can be accepted. The performance is key attack attack attack and please don't play demichaos, as we said David from this point forward getting the right starting 11 from off and stick with it!!! If we turn up tomorrow anything can happen but if we turn up to get our bellies tickled then i dread to think what will happen. I trust that won't happen though!!

    • March 11, 2014  10:22 am by John Evans TT Reply

      City's tactics tomorrow will be decided before a ball is kicked. They will be proactive, because it's what WE do, not Barcelona, that will count.

      In the absence of MP, the responsibility of motivating the troops wont be Kidd's or Cousillas' but captain Kompany's. Which is as it should be and he will carry that duty on to the field'

      To paraphrase Lord Nelson "'Manchester expects that every man will do his duty". I am sure they will.

      Nelsons final signal “Engage the enemy more closely.” flew at the masthead until it was shot away.

    • March 11, 2014  12:09 pm by David Walker Reply

      Demichaos is banned so at least that's sorted!

    • March 12, 2014  2:06 am by David Walker Reply

      Gotta be glorious in victory or valiant & dignity in defeat - 3-1 CITY!

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