Pablo Zabaleta hopes Pep Guardiola’s inside track on Barcelona can help to give Manchester City the edge on their latest visit to Camp Nou.
City have suffered four defeats from as many Champions League matches against Barca, having been knocked out by the LaLiga champions at the last-16 phase in 2014 and 2015.
They meet in Group C this time around and long-serving right-back Zabaleta suggested Guardiola’s status as a club icon both on the field and in the dugout for Barca could work to City’s advantage.
“The first thing is I think Pep knows very well the Barcelona players,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“He’s been working with most of them and he knows very well their quality and I think Barcelona didn’t change too much from his time at the club.
“They still play in the same way. They’ve been dominating European football for so many years now. For us it’s a new style of play – something we’ve not been doing before.
“When you have a new manager with new ideas you have to try and do as good as possible. As we saw in the last few games, whether we play with three or four at the back, the idea is the same – to control the games, be an attacking team and create as many chances as we can.
“I think it will be two teams with the same ideas, so we expect hopefully to have an attractive game and to try to win.”
Manuel Pellegrini was in charge for City’s previously unsuccessful forays into Catalonia, hailing their conquerors as the best team in the world.
But Zabaleta dismissed any notion of a mental block among his team-mates, simply acknowledging the reality of a supreme opponent – something Guardiola’s presence does not change.
“They’ve won this competition a few times and they’ve got experience. They have probably four or five of the best players in the world in different positions,” he added.
“Even if we have Guardiola as a manager now, we are still Manchester City with different players and a new style of play.
“Whoever the team is we will play against we will prepare the game to win
“Having said that, tomorrow you need to perform at the same level as them. You cannot make mistakes, [you must] take your possibilities and be clinical in front of goal.
“You need a perfect game to beat Barcelona, I think that is the key tomorrow.
“There will be a moment when you can suffer a little bit during the game. Hopefully we can control the game as much as we can. If we win the game we want to win the game playing our way.”
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