Paul Parker

City have a point to prove, but so do Barca

Paul Parker

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First things first: I think Barcelona will go through against Manchester City - but I also think City have a much better chance of causing an upset than Arsenal did on Tuesday night.

City are coming up against a Barcelona side who have blown hot and cold of late, and who are nothing like as good as they were last season. The change of manager really doesn't seem to have done them any favours.

Above all, they're really lacking defensively. Gerard Pique is still good, but their two full-backs, while great on the attack, aren't up to scratch. It tells you everything you need to know that Javier Mascherano is playing as a centre-back: he's really a defensive midfielder, and if Barcelona had any other central defenders worthy of the name then he wouldn't even be on the pitch.

Sergio Aguero - assuming that he plays - will be capable of causing Barcelona all manner of problems, while Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas will all fancy their chances of doing some damage should they get the chance.

The only problem is that Barcelona will be only too aware of all this. City need to get the ball and keep it if they're to score goals, since they seem to have lost their knack of tearing opponents apart on the counter-attack in the last month or so.

Barcelona will do everything they can to simply keep the ball away from City, and every minute they keep it will make it harder for Manuel Pellegrini's men to make headway. Scoring twice without conceding will be tough enough in any case, but doing it without seeing enough of the ball would be impossible.

Not conceding will in itself be a big problem for City in any case. Martin Demichelis is, quite simply, the worst central defender in the Premier League so it's a blessing in disguise that he is suspended following his red card in the first leg. His positional sense is awful.

You look back at City when they won the league a couple of years ago and it's easy to see how, because they always looked assured at the back - but this season Demichelis has made them look appalling at times, and even Kompany hasn't looked as good as he used to… though that's because he's invariably scrabbling around trying to cover his team-mate.

In fact I'd say that the only player in City's back four to have come out of this season with any credit so far is Pablo Zabaleta, who is the best right-back in the league. (I'd put Everton's Seamus Coleman second on that list, incidentally.)

Given that they're weak at the back, City may well have to score more than twice - but it's something they're capable of doing. They can punish Barcelona, particularly out wide and at free kicks - and you never know, because as we've seen several times this season, once they get going they can start knocking in goals from anywhere.

What's more, City will be absolutely raring to go after their defeat by Wigan in the FA Cup. When you lose a match unexpectedly like that, what you want is a huge match to bounce back in style - and it doesn't get any bigger than trying to pull off a two-goal win over Barcelona in the Champions League.

Barcelona will be thinking the same thing, of course - though the pressure on them is far greater. After they lost to Real Valladolid at the weekend they're down to third in the league, and need to win the Clasico in a couple of weeks to get back into the Spanish title race.

On top of that, Lionel Messi is going through a bad stage in his career - at least by his own standards. Is he getting on with Tata Martino, a coach who is from his own hometown? Whatever the problem is, he doesn't look happy.

Martino himself is under pressure as voices in Barcelona are beginning to question whether he's the right man to rebuild what is now an ageing team - and he's heaping yet more pressure on Messi. While they've always depended on his goals, it's rarely been to this extent - and so far Neymar has not shown himself able to step forward and shoulder some of that burden.

Whichever way you look at it, both teams have an enormous amount to prove - and have the perfect match in which to prove it. Both coaches talked about their players being complacent at the weekend, something which I think comes back on them since it's their job to avoid their stars falling into that trap. And neither man will have done himself much good with public criticism of his men after the match - while they might think it or say it in private, it's crazy to risk alienating your players by giving them a public dressing down.

None of that will matter on Wednesday night, though. The 22 men on the pitch will not need motivating - the occasion itself will do all that for them. As I said at the start, I think Barcelona will do enough to keep City at bay - but it'll be fascinating seeing how the match plays out.

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