Venue: Camp Nou
Date: 19 October 2016
Referee: Milorad Mažic (SRB)
Kick off: 19:45
Before I begin – I apologise for the negativity that this piece appears to be riddled with. If your wish is to see predictions of 4-0 City every week, click away now.
It had all started so well. City were rampant in the early part of Pep’s reign, recording ten wins from our opening ten games. Since then though, things have stalled a little. The Blues are winless in three – with draws against Everton and Celtic, and a loss away at Tottenham.
The run doesn’t get any easier on Wednesday night either. A visit to Catalonia is next for City, with Barcelona the opponents. So, what is there to consider ahead of a vital Champions League tie?
City Need to Find Their Shooting Boots
All things considered, City were very unlucky not to record a win against Everton on Saturday. The Blues continuously knocked on the door throughout the game, but found Martin Stekelenburg in fantastic form to deny us three points. Two penalty saves, on top of some other very impressive saves, meant that plucky Everton held on for dear life successfully. Wastefulness isn’t often something you’d associate with Pep’s City, but in a couple of recent games, it’s been more applicable to the side. If City are to get so much as a draw in Barcelona, they will need to find their shooting boots quickly. We’re unlikely to be given the opportunity to create chances at will against an opponent like Barcelona, so efficiency will be the aim of the game if an unlikely result is to become reality. Sergio Aguero has struggled for goals since City’s trip to Swansea in September. With a missed penalty on Saturday to add to a couple of frustrating performances for our Argentinian talisman, it’s becoming about as close to a goal drought as Aguero gets. If City are to get a result in Barcelona, surely the need for Aguero to resume his goalscoring habits are at an all-time high.
Defensive Stability Must Improve
City have been fantastic going forward so far this year. In our first 11 games, goalscoring came easy to us. However, an area that City have lacked slightly have been clean sheets. It is perhaps a good omen that clean sheets have been achieved in three of City’s four European ties. However, if we are to take anything in Barcelona, the Blues will need to improve defensively for certain. Admittedly, it is unlikely that City will stop Barcelona scoring altogether. It is a feat that very few teams will manage all year. But, if City are able to nick a point, keeping that scoring down to a minimum is essential. Foolish errors have cost City in our winless run. Calamitous defending in Glasgow meant that City’s job was always that of recovery. In London, an Aleksander Kolarov own goal meant that City got off on the worst foot imaginable. And unfortunately, the defending for Everton’s solitary goal on Saturday was again pretty suspect, though don’t let me take anything away from Romelu Lukaku. Errors like this won’t be tolerated by Messi, Suarez and Neymar. A defensive masterclass is needed.
City Will Severely Struggle at the Camp Nou
If Pep’s name tricks you into thinking that City will roll into Barcelona and play the Catalan giants at their own game, I would advise caution. City’s ten consecutive wins were a fantastic way to start under Pep, but the holes in a still incomplete squad are beginning to show. The lack of quality in the full-back positions is becoming increasingly apparent once again, and it’s impossible to imagine that it isn’t the next priority for a Pep revamp. Unfortunately, Barcelona possess a touch of quality down the flanks, with Lionel Messi likely to occupy the right-side. City are going to struggle in Barcelona on Wednesday. Get used to it now, so you’re not surprised when the game kicks off. Pep Guardiola will be a truly special manager for us. However, it’s going to take more than three and a half months to really get this group up to standards. This is by far the biggest test of the new era, and having failed the previously biggest test away at Spurs, I think it might be time to lower our expectations. In honesty, Guardiola himself will know that this City squad aren’t capable of challenging for the Champions League this year. It’s only delusional City fans and the English media that play up to the idea that City could challenge on four fronts. The best we can hope for tomorrow is a performances that exemplifies progress since our last visits to Barcelona, and maybe a shock result too.
Who Can Hurt Us?
This section is pointless this week. Every attacking option in Barcelona’s team can hurt us. I could name any one of the vast array of world-class talent in that side. Of course, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will be an impossibly difficult handful to keep quiet.
As you can probably tell from the tone of this article, I’m not expecting a positive result on Wednesday. I so nearly predicted 1-1 for the Everton game, but went with optimism. This time round I won’t be so foolish. 3-1 Barcelona.
Predict the score:
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