Man City battle Barcelona in crucial Champions League clash
Manchester City will aim to avenge their 4-1 aggregate thrashing to Barcelona last year, when they host Luis Enrique’s Spanish giants at the Eithad in a last 16 Champions League clash.
Manuel Pellegrini’s reigning Premier League champions, 20/1 to claim European success this year, were toppled both home and away by the La Liga outfit in last season’s competition at the same stage.
However, with Barcelona seeing their run of 11 consecutive victories come to an end in their last outing at the hands of Malaga, and City having thrashed Newcastle United 5-0, Pellegrini is confident his team can put up a sterner challenge this time around.
“Last year was different to this year,” said Pellegrini. “We arrived at this stage of the Champions League after playing 19 games in two months but I hope this year we will do it as we are not playing so many games.”
“We’re in a good moment but must recognise we are playing against a strong team.”
The home side struggled in the group stages, picking up only two points from their first four games, but showed great character in their final two fixtures to secure a double of impressive victories and seal progression.
“We never thought we were out of the Champions League. We had the trust to continue to fight until the end. This team will always try to do it,” continued Pellegrini.
“We didn’t play well, especially here at home against Roma and CSKA Moscow but our team showed the personality and quality to qualify.”
City rallied to a rampant triumph over the Magpies in their last league game, in what was Yaya Toure’s first outing since returning from international duty, and new signing Wilfried Bony’s club debut, having both helped the Ivory Coast clinch a historic Africa Cup of Nations win.
The astute African attacker sealed a £30m switch from Swansea City in January, and is 7/4 to strike anytime on his first European outing for his new club.
Pellegrini’s only doubt for the meeting is in-form James Milner, with the English wideman still recovering from a possible ligament injury, while the visitors have a full strength squad to choose from, with troublesome trio Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi set to lead their attack.
Argentina’s magnificent Messi netted in both of these side’s two encounters last term, and he is available at 5/2 to score anytime and Barcelona to secure another victory (max stake £20).
Messi’s fellow South American teammate Dani Alves incredibly fired in a 90th minute goal in both of last year’s clashes, and the brilliant Brazilian is 33/1 to hit last again this time out.
The Catalan giants, 23/20 favourites, will be hoping to secure an eighth straight Champions League quarter-final, with the hosts aiming to make their first ever appearance in the last eight.
Pellegrini’s men are making only their second last 16 outing and are 12/5 to qualify for the next round.