If we cast our minds back a fortnight or so ago then it was a night to forget for Manchester City as they were soundly beaten 4-0 by Barcelona at The Nou Camp. Tonight sees the return fixture as Pep Guardiola and his players look to gain some revenge for their Catalan capitulation.
Although Barcelona took a first half lead thanks to a combination of City defensive ineptitude and Lionel Messi’s dazzling footwork the game was quite a close encounter and had John Stones’ header gone in just before the break we could have been looking at a very different second 45 minutes.
But the game was turned on it’s head as Claudio Bravo handled outside the box and was subsequently showed a Red Card, from there Barcelona used their numerical advantage to great effect and scored three unanswered strikes to make it a miserable return to The Nou Camp for Pep Guardiola.
The sending off certainly changed the course of the game but the biggest headline before that was the fact that Sergio Aguero was left on the bench with Kevin De Bruyne deployed as a false nine. That move raised more than a few eyebrows with many questioning the decision of the former of Barcelona and Bayern manager.
The question now is whether or not Aguero will start tonight, after scoring a brace in City’s 4-0 win against West Brom on Saturday and breaking his run of games without a goal then you would have to imagine that all signs point to the Argentine leading the line at The Etihad.
That win was City’s first win in 7 matches across all competitions and also a victory that saw them continue their reign at the top of the Premier League table, albeit by goal difference. The fact that all of the top three scored 4 goals on Saturday shows that there is very little to choose between the teams at the top.
It’s also a tight affair at the top of La Liga as Barcelona currently sit second in the table, two points behind their arch rivals Real Madrid. Saturday saw a quiet night for the messers Messi, Suarez and Neymar as they only managed a 1-0 win at home to Granada.
Rafinha was on hand to bag the games only goal in the second half as a spirited Granada finally buckled under the pressure. What is more impressive about Rafinha is that he has only had 6 shots on goal so far this season and 5 of those have resulted in goals.
After defeats to Alaves and Celta Vigo earlier in the season, Barcelona are finding their stride now and have won their last three league matches not to mention that 4-0 reverse of a fortnight ago. That said although they picked up all three points against Granada they made the game a lot more difficult than it needed be.
Talking of difficult, it’s going to be a long night for Willy Caballero who will deputise for Claudio Bravo after his Red Card in the previous encounter, if he can keep Barcelona at bay then the blue half of Manchester will have more than half a chance of getting a result but that is easier said than done.
If Barcelona win then they will assure the place in the Round of 16 and also more importantly wrap up top spot. In doing that they will secure top place in the group and avoid all the other big teams once the competition restarts after the New Year.
City will go into this game full of confidence after breaking their barren run of results at the weekend but the test of Barcelona is about as hard as it gets. City need at least a draw to keep their hopes of winning the group but unfortunately that will be beyond them as Barcelona make it 4 wins from 4 in the group and wrap up top spot. An away win for me.