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City v Barcelona: The Key Players

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Manchester City and FC Barcelona face off in a very attractive match-up at the Etihad with hopes of advancing to the Quarter-Finals of Europe's Premier football spectacle.

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Vincent Kompany of Manchester City FC during to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City at Camp Nou on March 12, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Vincent Kompany of Manchester City FC during to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City at Camp Nou on March 12, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos/Getty Images

As the two teams prepare for the scintillating encounter at the Etihad, City fans and Barça fans, will begin to reminisce the memories of last year's UEFA Champions League two-leg series in the Round of 16. It all began at the Etihad, where a Martin Demichelis sending-off set the tone for an eventual 2-0 home defeat for the Blues.

The series culminated in Barça's favour with an aggregate score of 4-1, after a 2-1 return leg win by the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou. All of that will no longer matter when both teams enter the field for the encounter, and to begin the countdown to the momentous Champions League match, we begin to look at the key players of Barcelona and Manchester City.

FC Barcelona

Luis Suarez: Barcelona's Uruguayan frontman played against Manchester City 6 times in the Premier League during his three and half seasons as a Liverpool player, but only managed one goal. Regardless, he remain a world-class striker with the lethality of a black mamba. Luis Suarez has had a renaissance in front of goal in recent times, with the Barcelona manager, Luis Enrique, deciding to play him as a striker and insert Lionel Messi as the right winger.

This change, first seen against Atlético Madrid on Matchday 18, has sprung him up, and has seen him score three goals in the last six matchdays for Barcelona in La Liga. This sudden rebirth of Suarez will threaten qualification, unless they manage to effectively annul him from the match; a difficult task.

Neymar: Brazilian posterboy winger, Neymar, will look to add to his memorable season as he takes on the Sky Blues. Neymar has jumped out of the shadow of his disappointing first season at the Camp Nou. Last season, under Tata Martino, Neymar only mustered 15 goals between La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey.

This season, with much football still left in the season, Neymar already has 24 goals between La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey. This season's form has been boosted in recent times, similarly to Suarez, as he has become a major beneficiary from Luis Enrique's decision to move Suarez to striker and have Lionel Messi play as a winger. If Neymar's seasonal form is ever-so-present on Tuesday, City's European dream will become a nightmare.

Andrés Iniesta: It is no secret that Barcelona's midfield maestro, Andrés Iniesta, is the heart of the tiki-taka football that has come to revolutionize the game over the last 7-8 years. He has been so instrumental this season for Andrés Iniesta, and has helped Barcelona's approach with a 92 percent pass accuracy in Champions League and 90.8 percent pass accuracy for La Liga, according to WhoScored.com.

With Xavi's and Ivan Rakitić's inconsistency to keep a spot in the starting XI, Andrés is now the commander of the Barcelona midfield. This command of the Barcelona midfield will pit him against Yaya Touré for the midfield battle, and whoever comes up on top in that epic battle, will likely see his side victorious.

Manchester City

David Silva: In the victories against Stoke and Newcastle Silva showed the kind of form that City need from him tomorrow night. Whether Pellegrini opts for 4-4-2 or an extra man in midfield Silva will be the creative spark. Paired again with Samir Nasri, we have seen flashes again of quite how effective they are as a partnership. His double against Newcastle shows too what a threat he can be if he gets an opportunity in front of goal.

This match will be largely characterized as a battle in the midfield, the core of Barcelona's tiki-taka play, which runs through Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and at times, Ivan Rakitić. If City are able to keep pace they will need Silva to be at his very best, particularly with Toure absent for the first leg.

Sergio Agüero: Pellegrini and Man City fans alike will be hoping that Agüero plays at top form as they anticipate Tuesday's encounter. Agüero will face his Argentine national team counterpart and friend, Leo Messi, which is being earmarked as the major battle, Agüero v. Messi. Though Agüero v. Messi sounds like an attractive match-up in terms of production, the important one will be the key to the match will be between Agüero and Barcelona center back, Javier Mascherano. Barcelona's defense, particularly center backs, have been under some scrutiny during the season for disorganized defending and leaving holes open to poach goals.

Agüero is a very lethal goal poacher, and if you give him a wee bit of space, he will punish you. In this type of high-stakes match, these kinds of gaps could come to make the difference, whether for the better or worse. If Agüero can take advantage of some disorganized defending, he will make the game a real headache for the Barcelona defenders and supporters.

Joe Hart: If Manchester City hopes to keep the game close and keep Barcelona from scoring, Joe Hart will play the pivotal role. An attack trident like Neymar, Suarez and Messi is scary to any defense, especially with a midfield commander like Andrés Iniesta. Joe Hart will need to be invincible in order for City to keep a vital clean sheet, in order to keep the tie alive in the second leg.

The fear comes from a sudden crack in the defense, which would open the door for a goal from either of the Big Three. This combined with set pieces, where Neymar, Messi or Iniesta could really punish City, especially if it is a short 20-23 meter free kick. This will be key to Man City's hope in the two-leg series. If Joe Hart keeps a clean sheet in the first leg, it will not only keep the match close, but will give City morale and a strategy for beating Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

It will be a very even encounter indeed, but with City playing at home first, they will be the team feeling the most pressure, as they take into consideration that if they do not perform and allow Barcelona to steal the show, they will be lucky to pull a draw, which would be worse if Barcelona is able to get an away goal with a 1-1. In the end, this pressure will prove to bring the match to Barcelona's side, which has seen an impressive run of form lately.

Prediction? The match will end up with a 2-1 victory to Barcelona, who will capitalize in the midfield and in the attack through Iniesta and the Big Three, Suarez, Neymar and Messi.