It was probably even before the referee’s final whistle went on Saturday to confirm Manchester City’s FA Cup progress at the expense of Chelsea, hat City manager Manuel Pellegrini was turning to the Champions’ League encounter against Barcelona. The Chilean’s team had dome a thoroughly professional job in exacting a quantum of revenge for the league defeat to the same team a week or so earlier, but this was no time to dwell on success. As a set up for the game against the Catalans, the FA Cup tie had served a useful purpose in reinvigorating belief and building confidence in his squad, Manchester City were primed and ready for Barcelona.
When the draw for the first knockout round was made, the pairing of City and Barcelona has all the hallmarks of being the tie of the round, and little that has happened since will have affected that prospect. Whilst City were knocking Chelsea from the FA Cup, Barcelona were warming up for the contest with an outstanding 6-0 victory over unfortunate Rayo Vellecano. Not only was the score impressive, but the fact that Lionel Messi netted twice and looked back to his best following his injury layoff, and Neymar stepped off the bench to prove his fitness and lash in a late goal from distance, also showed the rude health of the Catalans’ squad.
Sometimes when two teams when two form teams collide anti-climax is the order of the day as each team cancels out the other leading to a dull and attritional battle is the result. It’s difficult seeing this encounter falling prey to that however as both teams play with the ethos of if they concede, having confidence that they can score more goals. A thriller full of attacking play is therefore in prospect, but which way will it turn out?
Many are predicting a close result, and I tend to lean that ay too. I think City could well overcome the Blaugrana at home, and may even netted two or three times. Keeping Messi, Neymar, et al at bay however will be difficult, and I can’t see a clean sheet for the home team. I can then see Barcelona turning the tie round in the home leg. Whatever happens however, it promises to be an evening of extravagant entertainment.
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