Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Barcelona v Manchester City - the game I've waited for for many many years

So Man City, the team I've followed since I was a young boy, are in Europe this evening and face the daunting task of turning around a 2-0 deficit. The opponents? Barcelona. Only bloody Barcelona. Arguably the most stylish and disciplined side in European football outside of Munich.
Bayern Munich are a devastatingly good side but we beat them. We beat them at their place. Admittedly they beat us handsomly at home but none-the-less we proved more than a match in Munich.
Can we do the same this evening?
As a fan I have to believe. I have to place my faith in Pellegrini's men as well as his penchant for swift attacking play.
But it's Barcelona. Ball hogging, stupidly skilled and downright clinical Barcelona.

If we are to stand any chance in this match we need to keep a clean sheet. Vincent Kompany needs to dictate and have the game of his life. Despite the criticisms levelled at him I would have beeen inclined to start with Demichelis alongside him. He has the experience and seems to hold his nerve under pressure. But I'd almost glue him to the penalty area. He has no pace as we found to our great detriment against Wigan.
But he was sent off in the first leg and won't play tonight. So it's Lescott or Nastasic. I've a feeling the latter is injured so we're probably looking at Lescott.
Personally I don't think he has the nerve. Far too easily caught in possession for my liking and can be slow to react. As a side note I'd love to see Micah Richards transfer to the centre of defence. He's big and powerful and I think would benefit greatly from playing right alongside Kompany.
Behind Kompany and Lescott I'd go for Joe Hart. Although there's little to separate him and Pantillimon in my judgment I just think Hart is the better mover. His reading is sharper and we'll need that tonight. Both great keepers, though.

Zabaleta and Kolarov should probably be a shoe in. Certainly Zaba. His workrate, strength and ability to drive forward are unparalleled. Kolarov gets my nod ahead of Glichy for his strength and ability with a set piece.

In midfield it's really a no-brainer. The excellent Fernandihno and Yaya Toure combination has to play centrally with Silva and Nasri out wide. Although to be fair Silva will roam. If ever there was a player to pay the entrance fee for it's him.

Finally Negredo and Aguero to play out front. Negredo is a wonderfully gifted number 9. A proper handful of a centre forward and a big lad to boot. Defenders will I'm sure have nightmares about him and Aguero. Their movement and combination play with the others is a joy to watch when it's executed well.

But there are so many ifs and buts.
To start with we must get the ball off Barcelona. I imagine much of the play will involve the midfield maestros dictating things. Their short passing is sublime and clinical. Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi are a handful that's for sure. Depending on where he's positioned Jordi Alba would be a real concern. As a left sided player with pace he will have a good go at Zabaleta. That could well be a contest to watch.

As mentioned City know they have to keep a clean sheet to stand anything like a fighting chance. I imagine we will be forced to sit deep anyway so the chances are going to come most likely through Yaya and a direct route to the front two. If we can break and break with pace I'd imagine we can test Barcelona's back four. They like to come forward a bit as well so this could be our way in.

But in all honesty it's anybody's guess as to how this will pan out. As a City fan I'd love to see us build from an early goal. The likelihood however against this Barcelona side at their place is that we'll have precious few chances to attack.

So what do I do? Well with a madman's cunning I place a tenner on us to win 5-0. :)
And why not.

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