Barca v Man City: Champions League
It’ll be a tough ask for the away side to come back from a two goal deficit in the Barca v Man City clash in the Nou Camp…
Barcelona are close to full strength for the Champions League last-16 second-leg tie against Manchester City. Reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto (back) is available again but Jonathan dos Santos and Isaac Cuenca are out.
Manchester City centre-back Joleon Lescott is likely to come in for the suspended Martin Demichelis.
Barcelona have gone through on 32 of the 34 times they have won the first away leg in a European tie. They let a two-goal advantage slip when they were knocked out of the European Cup Winners’ Cup first round by Metz in 1984/85.
City centre-back Matija Nastasic is missing with a knee injury and striker Stevan Jovetic is absent with a hamstring problem. Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has told his players to forget about their 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium last month.
The Barca coach maintains his team can still win the league and is certain of a response from his players against City but he remains wary of Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
He said: “If we have that 0-2 score in mind, we are risking the whole tie. We have to think of this game as the second half of a game and we are still goalless. “We can’t sit back and wait and see what happens.
“Every time you lose a game, the next few days are always tough. We’ve spoken a lot – the players and myself, but this is a different competition and I can see that we are really up for it.
“We have to get the good feelings back, remember the times we have played well – not that long ago – I am sure the team will put in a big performance.”
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini begins a two-match touchline ban but his assistant manager Ruben Cousillas is confident he can stand in for the Chilean.
Cousillas, who worked under Pellegrini at Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, said: “I know the way he thinks. I know practically everything to do with the decisions that have to be made. “I know he has got full confidence in me and if it has got to be done I am up to the challenge.”
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” was Roy Keane’s reaction to Vincent Kompany’s description of Barcelona after the first leg, and I tend to agree with him.
The Manchester City captain’s claim that Barca were “there for the taking” seemed more borne out of frustration than a realistic analysis of the game – City certainly matched the Catalans until the red card but in no way did they look superior.
If City had managed to keep the score to 1-0 I would have been far more optimistic of them pulling off a shock at Camp Nou, but conceding that last minute Dani Alves goal seemed to put the tie to bed.
The English side will be forced to go all out for attack on Wednesday night and that will leave them at the mercy of the attacking abilities of Barca’s front three.
Although the announcement that Carles Puyol will be leaving at the end of the season has had many claiming that we are witnessing the decline of this great side, there is no denying that Barcelona still possess some of the finest footballers on the planet.
City would have held out some hope had they watched Barcelona’s 1-0 loss against lowly Valladolid on Saturday, until of course they also lost to lowly Wigan on Sunday.
The Citizens have looked awe-inspiring at times this season, particularly going forward, but have fallen somewhat short in games that have really mattered – at Stamford Bridge, at home to Bayern Munich (their win in Germany was a dead rubber) and this weekend in the FA Cup.
Barcelona on the other hand, have been here and done it before, they know exactly how to win in big games when the pressure is on. Even if the era of this great side is soon to finish we still expect Barcelona at 1.56 to go through with ease.
We should see plenty of goals here with City forced to be more attacking than in the first leg where they started with a compact 4-4-1-1 formation.
A fully-fit Sergio Aguero adds a completely different dimension to the Citizens’ strike force and they should certainly get on the score sheet at some point.
Manchester City’s main worry however is in defence. Vincent Kompany may be one of the stand out centre-backs in Europe but the sorry replacements for Matija Nastasicleave a gaping hole in an otherwise impressive side.
Barcelona have won 23 of their last 25 games at home and as we should expect an attacking Manchester City to score at some point Barcelona/Yes at 2.16 looks a good option in.
Neymar’s hat-trick against South Africa last week was very impressive from one of the game’s rising stars.
The Brazilian hasn’t settled in to the Blaugrana kit since his big money move but the late stages of this Champions League campaign could be the perfect stage. Get on Neymar to score at odds of 3.15.
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Have a great weekend.