4-2-3-1 vital if Man City are to have a hope of beating Barcelona
It is far from a brainwave or tactical revelation to state that the best way to nullify Barcelona is to remain compact and disciplined in midfield, preventing space between the lines and thus forcing the play into the wider areas.
AC Milan did this effectively in the Champions League last season and Atletico Madrid have carried out this gameplan successfully on more than one occasion in the current campaign.
Although Man City are at home to Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini may want to take note of the way that Valencia performed at the Nou Camp earlier this month, when quick counter attacks that overloaded Sergio Busquets were a big factor in their 3-2 triumph.
Pellegrini is typically a keen advocate of a two-striker system, but when in charge of Villarreal he was known to adapt to a 4-2-3-1 system against Barcelona and he must do the same again at the Etihad if Man City are to win.
Man City’s odds are 15/8 to beat Barcelona and even without star striker Sergio Aguero and the suspended James Milner, this has to be considered a decent price bearing in mind they have won 18 of their 20 home games this season.
The two key players if a formation switch is utilised could prove Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas.
Although better in the FA Cup win over Chelsea, Toure has been highlighted more than once this season for a lack of positional discipline, which in turn leaves his fellow central midfielder with too much ground to cover.
With Fernandinho back from injury and reportedly fit to play, opting for the energy of the Brazilian with the positional know-how of Javi Garcia may prove the best pairing for Pellegrini here.
This would free up Toure to lead the counter attack in a number-10 role, where he won’t be tied to the same defensive contribution, except from preventing Busquets playing forward passes to kick-start Barcelona attacks.
If Busquets is given too much licence to dictate play, like Andrea Pirlo at Juventus sometimes is from a deep position, this may prove Man City’s undoing.
By playing Toure as an attacking midfielder, David Silva will move wide and it will be interesting to see how adventurous he is with his positioning.
There would be a job to do on tracking Dani Alves up and down the flank, but City don’t want Silva in his own half.
Real Madrid often leave Cristiano Ronaldo forward to devastating effect on the left flank and if Silva also remains high, not only will there be space on the counter attack behind Alves, but space may be available more centrally if Toure can draw Busquets out of his protective position in front of the back four.
Perhaps the biggest decision for Pellegrini is whether to start Samir Nasri or Jesus Navas down the right.
After his comeback goal in the FA Cup, Nasri is in the box seat and given his tendency to drift infield, he would help keep the central area of the pitch more compact.
However, Valencia found great success on the counter attack, through breaking quickly with numbers.
Navas has the pace to do this and if City could get him, Toure, Silva and Negredo running at the Barca defence, this could be an avenue to goals and victory.
Barcelona are 6/4 to win at the Etihad, with the draw priced at 12/5.