Manchester City will travel to Spain on Wednesday evening to take on Barcelona.
Pep Guardiola returns to the sight of his first revolution when Manchester City travel to Camp Nou this week. His Bayern side was well beaten on their trip to Barcelona and Man City fans may not be feeling as confident as they were three weeks ago.
A run of three games without victory has signaled the first mini crisis of Guardiola’s reign at City. Barca, on the other hand, seem to have weathered their own blip and will have the mesmeric front three operating at full cylinders again. This promises to be a truly epic heavyweight clash that will hopefully make up for the dishwater dull Liverpool-Man United game that we were exposed to on Monday evening.
UEFA Champions League | Wednesday 19 October | Camp Nou | 20:45
To Win Match (90 Mins)
Barcelona 9/20 | Draw 38/10 | Manchester City 52/10
The return of Lionel Messi is a thing that is hard to overstate. Their dip in form roughly correlated with his injury and he scored at the weekend within minutes of returning to action. Rafinha has been terrific in his absence but will have to make way to reconnect their hallowed front three.
Luis Enrique’s side have beaten Manchester City in their last four encounters, but they will no doubt be mindful of the kaleidoscope of emotions that will be brewing with Guardiola’s return.
Sergio Roberto and Jordi Alba look set to miss out. That could prove to be significant giving the effectiveness of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in harrying the flanks. Lucas Digne and Aleix Vidal will step in while they will be fielding their strongest possible side otherwise.
Their demolition of Celtic stands in stark contrast to City’s seesaw 3-3 draw is perhaps the most concrete distillation of their overall supremacy. One area where they may need to be careful is when City break. One wonders whether Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic will have the discipline between them to help out poor Sergio Busquets. Ever the sacrificial lamb, Busquets could have an awkward night with Silva and co. if he doesn’t receive the support of his fellow midfielders.
Man City dropped valuable points at the weekend and are winless in three. They also are looking to bounce back from a difficult 3-3 draw with Celtic. They will be without Vincent Kompany - whom I believe they may have cryogenically frozen - while Bacary Sagna will miss out.
Leroy Sane was quite dynamic at the weekend and I’m wondering if Guardiola may feel the need to test him out this week. He will likely opt on the side of caution and go for a more experienced outfit. Fernandinho will play in that sweeper role while Ilkay Gundogan will likely tuck in to help in out.
There is always the possibility of sticking the more defensively minded Fernando in there alongside Fernandinho, but a lack of match fitness could prevent that. De Bruyne and Aguero missed penalties at the weekend, indicating a slightly alarming lack of clinical edge.
One feels that Sterling’s performance may go a long way to determining whether the Citizens are camped inside their own half the entire night. His genuine pace has the ability to neutralize the gap in quality that admittedly still exists between the two sides. I would expect Guardiola to attempt to square him off against Digne in an attempt to expose the young French full-back.
Verdict: HT/FT Double - Draw/Barcelona (33/10)
I’m going to opt for the halftime-fulltime double here. I don’t see the value of backing Barcelona nor do I think City have a realistic chance of upsetting the applecart. But City may be able to withstand the Barca barrage for the first half while ultimately relenting in the second half. A drawn first half followed by a Barca victory seems like a decent prospect.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets