Manchester City has the strongest squad of players in the Premier League according to most observers.
They should have as well, considering the hundreds of millions that has been spent on building said squad.
However, the Citizens face one of their biggest tests of the season so far on Tuesday night, as Spanish giants Barcelona head to the Etihad Stadium for the first leg of the last 16 Champions League clash.
The Citizens head into the game on the back of a mixed set of results. City suffered a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the league, before drawing 0-0 at Norwich and gaining revenge against Chelsea with a 2-0 defeat of Jose Mourinho’s side in the FA Cup on Saturday.
City were not at their best in the Premier League clash with Chelsea nor the Norwich game. Their previously fearsome strike-force struggled in both the games. Maybe complacency had set in amongst the City players, or maybe the Citizens just endured two off-days.
The City players produced a far better performance against Chelsea at the weekend, with Stevan Jovetic finally making an impact for the boys in light blue. That victory over Chelsea should send the Citizens into Tuesday night’s clash with Barca in high spirits.
However, it seems like it may be a bad time for City to face the Catalan giants. The reigning Spanish champions had been searching for a new identity under boss Tata Martino this season. The Catalan giants were winning games, but the style of football was not what was expected of Barca.
After the team suffered a 3-2 defeat to Valencia, Martino decided to have a team meeting to discuss what was going wrong. The result of that meeting was that the team needed to go back to playing the ‘Barcelona way’ and get back to the ideology of the clubs playing style.
This playing style had brought the club unparalleled success under Pep Guardiola and the style of play ran through from the youth team right to the senior side. Martino was attempting to find a different way of playing because other teams had learnt how to combat Barcelona’s playing style, notably German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season.
The change in style resulted in the team not playing as consistently as in previous seasons and dropped points in La Liga. Barcelona went back to basics for their La Liga games against Real Sociedad, Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano.
The fact that the Catalans won all three games was not the most notable point from those games though. The most notable point from the games was that Barcelona again started to look like the great Barcelona team that was once the envy of all the big clubs in Europe.
They pressed-high up the field and Andres Iniesta was all of a sudden a key player to the team again, something that has not been the case for much of the season.
Despite looking like they are getting back to the teams former-style, Barcelona are still looking susceptible to conceding goals. Barcelona never needed much of a defence, as they retained possession so well and won the ball back high up the field.
Their defence was exposed at times last season and this season, yet the Catalan giants still have not addressed the problem. City’s forward trio of Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic have the ability to get at the Barcelona defence, if City can retain possession long enough to trouble the Spaniards.
City themselves have a weakness in defence, especially without Brazilian midfield lynchpin Fernandinho acting as cover in front of the defence. Both sides’ strengths are in the attacking third and this tie is one that promises goals galore.
Over the two legs it is difficult to predict who will go through to the quarter-finals. Barcelona are currently favourites to qualify from the tie at odds of 4/9, while City are odds of 7/4 to make it into the last eight of the competition.
City on their day can give anybody in Europe a game, as the Citizens proved when they won 3-2 at European champions Bayern Munich earlier in the season. The bookmakers may be writing off Manchester City, but you can guarantee that the Catalan Giants will not be, as the English side pose a very real threat to their place in the competition.
Can Manchester City get the better of Barcelona in the Champions League?
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