Five reasons Barca can get back on track against Pep’s Man City
Holly Thackeray | 19 October 2016
Five reasons Pep Guardiola’s Nou Camp return is best for Barcelona
And so here it is, the match most neutrals have been waiting for, as Pep Guardiola’s Nou Camp return with new club Manchester City takes place on Wednesday, October 19th.
Coral have all your Barcelona v Man City odds covered, as the Champions League group stage encounter draws closer – but who will come out tops?
The Catalan coach faces his former club for the second time in Europe since leaving in 2012 and, as of yet, has been unable to equal his legacy left at the Nou Camp. The Spanish giants have proven they can win without Pep, as well as beat him. Can the coach do the same?
While, despite losing only two of 12 games in all competitions this campaign, Barcelona have been accused of being on the ropes. But, City could prove the perfect opponents to silence critics.
Here are five reasons we reckon Barca are worth backing to give their old boss the blues again…
Guardiola’s Nou Camp Bayern blunder
Pep was parachuted into Manuel Pellegrini’s Etihad seat to help Man City in their quest to clinch a first-ever Champions League trophy.
As a gaffer, Guardiola has already won this coveted competition twice with Barcelona, and once more claimed European Cup success previously as a player in the Catalan club’s colours.
Yet, the Spaniard could not replicate that success on the continent at Bayern Munich, failing to deliver in his three seasons in Bavaria.
So, Pep has a point to prove – but has he learned from previous mistakes? On his first return to the Nou Camp, Guardiola tried too hard to be a tactical innovator, with his 3-5-2 cut open at the back brutally. It was 3-0 on the night and 5-3 on average. Ouch.
Bayern fought back in the CL semi-finals second leg but it was too little too late. Guardiola’s bold but ultimately fruitless formation tinkering bombed away at Barca, despite boasting players of the calibre of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.
Guardiola has since famously implemented three at the back for Man City – and with great attacking effect. Goals will flow from both ends if he fails to revert to four in defence at Barcelona, but at what price? City’s recent wobbles and previous warning signs have shown they are vulnerable.
The Sky Blues should have won against Everton at the weekend and faced troubles too against Celtic and Spurs. Guardiola’s intent to deliver full throttle football is to be commended, but he could be playing with fire if he persists at Nou Camp. Both teams can be got at here, but Barca can always score more.
Pep could pull a surprise out of his sleeve but, at the moment, Barcelona are understandably odds-on 4/7 match favourites with Coral.
Alternatively, with our brilliant Barcelona v Man City odds, back a home victory in 90 minutes and both teams to score at 31/20 instead.
Watch highlights of Barcelona’s drubbing of Bayern at the Nou Camp below:
City’s three at the back face most formidable three in football
Sticking with the Citizens’ three at the back issues, are they ready to face Barcelona’s abundance of attacking riches alone?
The 3-5-2 with wing backs tucking in to flood midfield alongside inverted Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, has resulted in the Premier League seeing some of its prettiest passing. Lauded across the land for their fluid football, Man City must remember they have not yet faced a team of the Catalans’ quality.
Manchester United and Tottenham have been the two biggest tests so far and, though City passed the first with flying colours against a team in transition, they were found out at White Hart Lane.
Last time out against Everton, Guardiola wasn’t even trying to pretend to use wing backs. Full back Juan Bernat at least pushed up for Bayern on Pep’s last trip to the Nou Camp, but the Toffees instead saw Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling on the opposing flanks.
It may have looked impressive going forwards, but how about when facing Luis Suarez on the counter? It will be interesting to see if Guardiola opts for more defensive options like Pablo Zabaleta to prepare the Sky Blues for being on the backfoot. Common sense demands he should when potentially preparing to face Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
Then there is still the issue of the back three. John Stones is a certainty in a trio that does not always feature traditional centre halves, with full backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy both having featured centrally, just as out-of-position Rafinha did previously at Bayern.
Even nailed on starter and position specialist Stones is a concern. The youngster may look impressive in Guardiola’s system, but he has looked sloppy for England, and will surely be singled out as a potential defensive weak point.
As to who will partner Stones? That is anyone’s guess. Nicolas Otamendi is far from a sure bet, but at least knows this opposition well.
Barca bound to find the net at Nou Camp
If it is stats you appreciate when weighing up an argument, look no further than Barcelona’s recent home record in Europe. As hosts, Barca have bagged at least twice in their last eight Champions League matches – which doesn’t make pretty reading for City.
On their own patch in all competitions this term Luis Enrique’s Barcelona have never failed to find the target, so don’t expect that to change against a Man City side using a new system.
A whopping 12 scored in their previous three Liga outings hints that the Nou Camp goal production line is getting into gear. Guardiola’s innovative but sometimes unstable rearguard looks unlikely to stop the net from rippling again.
So, a Barcelona victory and over 3.5 goals in the game is worth grabbing at 15/8.
Messi, Suarez scoring for fun again
Although arguably the best attack in the world, there had been a run of three games recently when all of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (and their almost telepathic playing relationships) looked to have stalled, with none netting in open play.
Thankfully for neutrals, the terrifying trio are clicking again – meaning Barca should truly be back on track. Suarez and Messi both bagged in their previous 4-0 rout of Deportivo de La Coruna and the big three all rank in the top five of La Liga’s top scorers.
Undoubtedly eager to improve upon their respective Champions League hauls of three, two and one for the season so far, Messi (7/5 to score and Barca win), Suarez (10/3 to open the scoring) and Neymar (6/5 anytime) are all available to back for goal fun with Coral.
Man City’s history of pain in Spain
As for Man City, this is a monumental match as to measuring how far they have come. After crashing out at the semi-final stage last season, City have had the ‘Champions League curse’ attributed to them, a tag previously attached to Chelsea until their maiden success.
Yet to reach the final of a European Cup, Man City could well meet Barcelona on the road to Cardiff again in the knockout stages. Are they ready for a Spanish assault now?
The Citizens have come a cropper on the continent against Barca before, losing both last 16 legs to the Catalans in 2014, and again in 2015 at the same stage. While, another Spanish giant, Real Madrid, ousted City from the final four in 2016.
See how Barca berat City before in 2015:
Can the Sky Blues overcome this history? In attack, they are almost as electrifying as Barcelona with Sergio Aguero and co. So, it will be up to Guardiola, returning once again to the scene of his Bayern blooper as well as his former stomping ground, to make a case for defence.
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