Five things Manchester City must do to beat Barcelona
Outsiders for victory even with their own supporters behind them, Manchester City fans might be feeling like a minor miracle is required to help them progress past Barcelona in the Champions League, but they might be wrong.
Manuel Pellegrini’s poor record against the Catalans has been well-documented but Lionel Messi and Co. have been far from their imperious best of late.
Manchester City have also built up some steam with a 5-0 victory over Newcastle, and with all that in mind we’ve picked out five things the Sky Blues must do if they are to dump Luis Enrique’s team out.
Take the early initiative
Manchester City need to start with a bang in the Etihad if they are to defeat Barca this week, with three of the Catalans’ five defeats coming in games where they have shipped the opening goal within the first 10 minutes of the game.
In fact, four of Barcelona’s five losses this season have come in games where they have conceded first. After scoring three in the first 21 minutes against the Magpies last time out, another early goal could be on the cards for City.
Let Barca have the ball
In the past City have been too concerned with going toe-to-toe with Barcelona in the possession stakes yet with the philosophy of tiki-taka still alive and well at the Camp Nou, the Sky Blues would be far better served by sitting back and allowing Barca to play their pretty passing game.
Every one of the Catalans’ defeats this term have been characterised as games in which Barcelona have dominated possession but struggled to find a way through with Real Madrid the only one of five teams to beat Barca and record over 40 per cent possession.
Be clinical in front of goal
Chances are always likely to be at a premium when it comes to facing Enrique’s team so it is essential that City make the most of the limited chances that do come to them, otherwise they could suffer a similar fate to so many before them.
David Moyes’ Real Sociedad saw off Barca in a 1-0 victory despite having just two shots on goal while even the likes of PSG and Real Madrid ultimately triumphed because they were clinical and had the quality required in the final third.
City certainly have the strikers to do the damage and with Edin Dzeko back among the goals and Wilfried Bony looking sharp, it could be down to whether the Sky Blues striker take the limited chances that come to them.
Go foul for foul
In the past, players at Manchester City have been guilty of ill-discipline with the likes of Yaya Toure against CSKA Moscow a prime example, but the harsh reality is that the Sky Blues may need to fight fire with fire in that respect against Barca.
From bad tackles to play-acting and gamesmanship, Barcelona have been willing to do whatever it takes to win over the years, without making mistakes. City need to develop that edge to their game while removing the kind of errors that saw Martin Demichelis dismissed for a last-man tackle on Messi last term.
Four of the five teams that have beaten Barcelona this term have done so while racking up yellow cards, but not reds, against the Spanish outfit.
Do not fear the Camp Nou
With the second leg to come at the Nou Camp, Manchester City need to remove some of the stigma built up around trips to the ground in the English press. That’s because Barcelona simply have not been as formidable at home this term with Celta Vigo and most recently Malaga recording wins.
After losing out on a La Liga title on their own patch following a draw against Atletico Madrid, there is a suggestion that the Nou Camp magic may have faded a little with the Catalans keeping just two clean sheets in their last eight out the ground in the Spanish top-flight.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are in great form on the road having gone nine games without defeat away from the Etihad, winning seven and drawing two.
Do all of this and the tie could swing City’s way.
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