Champions League round of 16 Preview: Manchester City v FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona travel to London to face Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 in what should be a mouth-watering clash. FC Barcelona will look to return to winning ways after an upset 1-0 loss to Malaga in the Liga BBVA.
Meanwhile, Manchester City are on a high after thumping Newcastle Utd 5-0 in the Premier League. Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be looking to put a better performance against the Blaugrana, against whom they lost 4-1 on aggregate, in this very same fixture last season. Luis Suárez is set to return to England after leaving Liverpool last summer. Wilfried Bony will be looking to make his first Champions League appearance for the club from Manchester.
Kickoff: The match is scheduled to kick off at 1.15 am IST
Referee: Felix Brych
Assistants: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp
Fourth Official: Mike Pickel
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Mangala, Kompany, Clichy; Fernandinho, Fernando; Nasri, Silva, Milner; Agüero.
Manchester City will be without the services of Yaya Touré, who is serving the last of his three-match ban. Without Touré, much of the midfield play and creative hope will lie on the shoulders of Samir Nasri and David Silva. The latter was in impeccable form against Newcastle and played the perfect playmaker role. Vincent Kompany will be the backbone of defence and will be partnered with Eliaquim Mangala. Though Milner was said to be suffering from a knee injury, he should be fit to start the game. Sergio Agüero will be upfront, probably alone, but Nasri and Silva might play on the wings and give him support. Bony might come on as a substitute later as the game progresses.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alba, Mascherano, Piqué, Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakiti?; Neymar, Messi, Suárez.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is expected to start in goal, with Piqué and Mascherano as centre-halfs. The midfield trio will consist of Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Ivan Rakiti?. The front three will be the same, with the South American trident up front. Creativity shouldn’t be a problem, at least as long as Iniesta and Messi play. Thomas Vermaelen hasn’t still recovered from his hamstring injury, and Douglas too is unavailable. Pedro might come on later in the game.
Sergio Agüero vs Javier Mascherano:
Javier Mascherano will have to use his knowledge of the game and defend well against his fellow national teammate if Barcelona want to win this game. Agüero has been in scintillating form, and he will look to play the sort of game he played against Bayern in which City won 3-2. Mascherano will have to play strictly and control Agüero from getting into too much space. He might as well learn from Mehdi Benatia’s error against the Argentine and hope not to commit such mistakes. He will have to be careful and not stray away out of position. Agüero will be looking to exploit Barca’s shaky defence and trouble the young German keeper.
Leo Messi vs Vincent Kompany:
Lionel Messi will be looking to get back into Champions League action with goals, and Vincent Kompany will have a tough job containing him. Messi is the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League history and will be looking to add more goals to his ever-expanding goal tally. The Belgian centre-half will have to play strategically, stay alert and masterfully dispossess the little magician if City are to record a clean sheet. Kompany will have to form a rock solid partnership at the back with the young Eliaquim Mangala. Messi will be looking to forget the shock against Malaga and play up to his potential.
Neymar Jr. vs Pablo Zabaleta:
Pablo Zabaleta will have a rather sticky time containing Neymar Jr., as the Brazilian winger is enjoying his best spell at the club. Neymar has been a constant threat for all teams on the right flank, and possesses the wonderful ability of cutting inside and feeding the ball into Messi or Suárez. Zabaleta will be hoping to regain his solid World Cup form, and will be looking to cause troubles for the pacey Brazilian with his top-class tackles, vital interceptions and vision. He will need to be wary of getting forward and combining with Nasri, knowing very well Neymar’s agility and stride on the flank.
Expect the teams to be well-matched and give each other a tough contest. The match is expected to draw 2-2.