FC Barcelona has been drawn against English powerhouse Manchester City in the final 16 round of the Champions League. Led by Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City were the team everyone was trying to avoid, especially Barcelona. Out of all the possible matchups, this is the most dangerous for this year’s lackluster Barcelona, and they will be extremely lucky to progress past this next round.
Barcelona is having a very hard time trying to recapture their long lost glory. Xavi keeps getting older and more injury-prone, and even though they signed Neymar Jr. from Santos in the summer, they lack firepower. I agree that Barcelona has been playing badly because Lionel Messi has been injured, and that in itself is Barcelona’s biggest problem.
Messi is without a doubt a superstar and one of world’s best, but this is a team sport and Barcelona should be able to win convincingly without him. They will need Messi to step up and guide this otherwise fragile team.
Manchester City, on the other hand, is a team on the rise and proved it by destroying Premier League leaders Arsenal on the weekend. This team is incredibly balanced and the players finally understand Pellegrini´s tactics. Look for Samir Nasri, David Silva and former Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure to dominate the middle of the pitch and make Barcelona incredibly uncomfortable.
If Barcelona plans on making it past a tough, hard-nosed Manchester City, they will need Messi and Andres Iniesta guide them without making a single mistake. In a World Cup year, I don’t expect either Messi or Iniesta to risk injury in order to assure progression to the next round. New boss Gerardo Martino will have his first real test and if he is unable to motivate his team, they will be humiliated as they were last season by eventual champions Bayern Munich.