After Manchester City's 2-1 loss to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League at the Etihad, it seemed like Manchester City had a small chance of advancing to the Quarterfinals. Why not? If you have the players to overcome an obstacle like this, there is always some optimism to advance. Joe Hart's last-minute save of Lionel Messi's penalty kick seemed to spark a sense of optimism and this was seen by many fans to be a sign for the second leg. Lately, with poor performances against Liverpool and Burnley following the first-leg, it has become clearer and clearer that City look set for another Round of 16 exit for the second season in a row to the same team, Barcelona. To lose to a team in 19th place, being Burnley, puts into perspective the struggles that Man City face as of late, and with these struggles, beating Barcelona and advancing will be byzantine to say that least, especially with the match being played at the Camp Nou. Sure, they beat Leicester City 2-0 between the Burnley and Liverpool matches, but this is not an enthralling achievement, especially when you are at home against the Foxes, who are at rock bottom of the league standings. To put into these issues into perspective, here we analyze why beating Barcelona will not happen as a result of Man City's struggles:
Lack of unity: Over the last couple of weeks, it has been reported that Vincent Kompany had a spat with Fernandinho at half-time of Man City's 2-1 loss to Liverpool. This, in turn, led to him being dropped for the following match against Leicester City. These displays of antagonism between the players begs the question, what truly is happening behind the scenes? When you see that the captain is involved in these situations, it is quite troubling to see that their might be a lack of order within the team. This has been displayed on the pitch, with many players putting in sluggish and uninspiring performances week in and week out. This lack of unity, off and on the pitch, is what will allow for Barcelona to defeat Man City and come up with the win at home to seal the deal.
Lack of defensive stability: It was seen against Liverpool and was seen again against Burnley on Saturday, the defense is weak. The defenders are slow to defend against the run of play and give up the ball quite quickly, which has impeded good ball movement to the midfield, which can propelled forward for an attack. The defense has also had a rough time with clearing the ball. Kompany lost the ball to Jordan Henderson at Anfield two weeks ago, and the attack that emerged culminated in Liverpool's goal for 1-0. Kompany did not clear the ball against Barcelona with Suarez on his back, and that poor defending led to the first Barcelona goal for the lead. When you are committing too many defensive mistakes, you, in essence, are handing the match to the other team. When you face a team like Barcelona, you are not forgiven, and this will lead to a Barcelona win.
Struggles in the final third: It was evident against Burnley and Liverpool that the team is lacking lethality in the final third. Agüero, Bony, and Džeko are missing good chances in front of goal, and this is coupled with missed free kicks and failed crosses. This is becoming a bit of a habit for City, who are losing matches by not burying these golden opportunities at goal. Some examples include Aguero's shot on Mignolet against Liverpool in the first half, which hit the post, and David Silva missed shot in front of the net from a couple yards out in the second half if the same match. If City continues the trend of missing good opportunities, they will not only lose to Barcelona, but lose out on second place in the BPL standings.
Prediction? Given Manchester City's very poor performance at Turf Moor, logic would indicate that Barcelona would perhaps win by a substantial goal margin. I do not believe that will be the case, as City will not allow Barcelona to freely have the game without giving up a valiant fight. Barcelona's attacking trident, Messi, Suarez and Neymar, along with the midfield duo of Rakitić and Iniesta will prove enough to put away City. Final score... 3-1 Barcelona.