On Tuesday Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will again face his old side Barcelona in the second leg of the two clubs’ Champions League group stage tie. Pep’s City side find themselves 4-0 down on aggregate scoreline after effectively being trounced at the Camp Nou two weeks ago.
It would be an exaggeration to say that City’s Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread, but a second defeat to Barça could make things very precarious for them. Especially if Borussia Monchengladbach beat do as expected and beat Celtic in Tuesday’s other Group C fixture.
Harsh as it seems, the 4-0 battering at the Camp Nou is a bit unflattering on City. Guardiola’s side were arguably holding their own until the unfortunate sending off of keeper Claudio Bravo. Had the keeper remained on the pitch, City might not have won but would’ve been unlikely to find themselves with such a deep hole to climb out of.
Another key factor in that loss was the dropping of Sergio Aguero to the bench. The City manager took a lot of flack for not starting the Argentine striker, although to be fair to Guardiola, leaving Aguero out allowed him to try and pack the midfield and choke the supply lines to likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
It might have worked had City been able to maintain 11 men on the field.
Aguero is expected to be back in the starting 11 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. Restoring Aguero to the team will provide City more of a direct threat in front of goal. However, to get one over on Barcelona, they will need to be much better in back than they were last time out.
Bravo’s sending off aside, needless mistakes cost City dearly against Barça. Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy all put in negligible errors against a Barcelona team that’s more than capable of capitalizing on the slightest slip-up.
Indiscipline against Barcelona is hardly a new trait for Man City. In five meetings with the La Liga giants, City have rounded up four red cards. Cit have also lost all of their previous meetings with Barça and above all else, must avoid going down to 10 men yet again.
The good news is that after going six games across all competitions without a win, City came roaring back with a 4-0 beating of West Bromwich Albion on the weekend. Two unanswered goals each from Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan should provide an enormous boost of confidence going into Tuesday’s clash with Europe’s best team.
Guardiola has spoken of the need to treat Tuesday’s match “like a final.” If his defense can avoid the kind of slip-ups they’ve been overly prone to, then they have a good chance of getting a result that will ease the pressure on them going into the next round against Gladbach.
Watch Manchester City vs. Barcelona in the Champions League this Tuesday November 1, at 3:45 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.