Manchester City will need a concoction of defensive resilience, midfield dominance, and attacking proficiency to beat the mighty Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League clash at the Camp Nou.
Since they are facing a front three consisting of Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi, the Sky Blues will majorly depend on the strength of the defense. Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones will surely be the favored center-backs for the match. This will be a huge test of their partnership, and capabilities against the best in the world. It is currently unknown if Pep Guardiola will once again play with three in the back, but we will most likely be seeing a four-man defensive line to accommodate for the Blaugrana attacking prowess.
The full-backs will be Pep's biggest headache. Pablo Zabaleta has been in poor form and is now likely to be thrown onto the pitch to mark Neymar. Clichy on the other hand could either keep Messi from having any impact on the match or get completely run into the ground. It is impossible to predict this matchup as City’s defense could turn out to be a brick wall or they could get torn apart by the dangerous trio.
Moving forward, though, Barça’s midfielders will certainly have their hands full. Man City’s world-class midfield will look to control the match, and players such as Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva will help the cause. David is always the puppet master, commanding the central areas of the pitch. Kevin will be looking to get the ball forward, in hopes of scoring or assisting goals.
While Silva and De Bruyne must put on an amazing display, the performances of Fernandinho and Gundogan are also crucial. Fernandinho, who seems to get better with age, is astonishingly well-rounded. He can attack, defend and govern the midfield. Summer signing Ilkay Gundogan will be out to prove why Pep pursued his signing, and he must make a significant impact. Midfield dominance will be imperative if three points are to be stolen from Barcelona.
Last weekend, the Blues’ attacking power was not truly exhibited. Some golden opportunities were not capitalized on, and this will have to change in Catalonia. Most importantly, Sergio Agüero will need to raise his confidence. His pre-match quotes were not inspiring, as he said that City’s defense will need to play the game of its life if they are to get a result. This is unlike Sergio, and his penalty mistakes have likely taken a toll on his morale. This would leave his side at a monumental disadvantage. The prolific goalscorer will need to show how talented he really is by performing on the big stage.
As stated by Gundogan, Pep Guardiola knows how to beat Barcelona. However, every part of his team must perform at their very best to get a result away from home. This one is hard to predict, as both sides will be at each other’s throats from the first minute to the very last.