It’s no secret that Manchester City have an uphill task ahead of them this evening, as they look to overturn a 1-2 aggregate in Barcelona tonight to make it to the Champions league quarter final. With just a couple of hours until the match gets underway, we’ve looked at a couple of players from each club’s key areas and seen how they compare…
The Frontman: Luis Suarez Vs Sergio Aguero
Luis Suarez, Barcelona
The controversial Uruguayan was jeered on his return to England in the first leg, but soon silenced those home fans by scoring twice in Manchester. The striker got plenty of goals during his time in the country with Liverpool, so it came as no surprise when he landed himself on the scoresheet and his goals look to have put one Barcelona foot into the quarter final. The Catalan club has so far been able to enjoy Suarez’s goalscoring exploits – currently at a rate of one every other game – without any real indiscretions, at least not the kind that have made the player enemies in England, Italy and the Netherlands. This season is only the second that the 28 year-old has played in the Champions League beyond the play-offs, but Suarez has proved he is very much a player to be taken seriously at this level with four goals in four matches in his current European campaign, and there’s every chance he will add to that tally tonight.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Man City’s own South American striker has a legendary status at his club that his Barcelona rival will certainly hope to emulate. Sergio Aguero arrived in Manchester for a sizeable fee of £35m but it has proved to be a bargain price, with the Argentinian just two away from 100 goals for the club (and could have been well more, were it not for injuries). His tally includes the goal that won City their first title of the Premier League era, while his performances across the four years with the club so far have been awe-inspiring. A prime example of this came in the recent Champions League tie at home to Bayern Munich, where it seemed as if Aguero was carrying the team through to the latter stages on his own. His goal in the first leg gives City some hope of chasing the aggregate deficit tonight, and indeed it will most likely be he who will get on the scoresheet for the club in the Nou Camp, but the former Atletico Madrid man may need a bit more help if City are to get the shock result.
The Catalyst: Lionel Messi Vs David Silva
Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Barca’s main man has more awards and records than some of his rival players have career goals, and is fit to grace any side on the planet. The 27 year-old has scored 43 goals in 39 games this season, and is three away from an incredible 400 in total for the Catalan giants. He failed to add to his season tally of eight Champions League goals in the first leg against City, having an injury time penalty saved then somehow missing the rebound to give his opponents a glimmer of hope at the full time whistle. It would be a surprise, however, if Messi doesn’t at least help to deliver the blow tonight that ensures Barca go through. One goal should probably be enough for the home side, and nobody has lit up the Nou Camp in recent memory quite like the Argentine genius.
David Silva, Manchester City
The creative spark for City doesn’t chip in with a huge amount of goals but Silva is a significant asset on the pitch for other players. His team need to score at least twice tonight, and it will be tasked with Silva to take on the Barca backline and pass in behind to Sergio Aguero. The Champions League is one of the few trophies to have eluded the 29 year-old in his career and the attacking midfielder will be on a mission this evening to ensure his side still have a chance of winning it this season. With Sergio Busquets out for Barcelona, Silva will hope to give a torrid time to whoever it is that steps in. Still, nobody is expecting him to outshine his attacking counterpart in Messi this evening.
The Manager: Luis Enrique Vs Manuel Pellegrini
Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini’s position as Manager at the Premier League’s reigning champions has come under increased pressure in the past few weeks and is certainly due to endure some truly telling moments in the crucial weeks coming up for the club, both in Europe and domestically. Winning the Premier League last season set Manchester City up for a 2014-15 campaign where the only way to look was up; with an assured Champions League spot and a war chest comparable to only a handful of clubs in similar financial security, many predicted Manchester City would finally use this season as their opportunity to stamp their name on World and European football, as opposed to just the domestic league. City have never shone in the Champions League and head into tonight’s tie with one of the tournament favourites Barcelona and as such, there are few whom expect this year to be any different. European form is probably the least of Pellegrini’s concerns however. The Chilean 61-year-old has come under increased scrutiny in the past few months as his Manchester side crumbled out of the F.A Cup against Middlesborough and allowed not only Chelsea to distance themselves in the race for the title but also the trailing pack of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool to gain valuable ground in the now vital race for Champions League qualification. A win tonight would be huge for Pellegrini’s job security whereas a loss would further throw doubts up surrounding the Chilean’s acumen for the role.
Luis Enrique, Barcelona
Luis Enrique’s short tenure at Barcelona has already yielded a dramatic swing in form and popularity for the Spaniard after enduring a torrid start to the season and a fantastic and seemingly unstoppable turnaround that finds Barcelona back at the top of La Liga and in the kind of free-flowing form we’ve come to expect from the Catalans. The start of 2015 was tough for Barcelona and Enrique after a training ground bust-up between Enrique and Lionel Messi before the season’s opener became public knowledge. Enrique was seemingly out-cast and was rumoured to be barely hanging on to his role at the club before his Barcelona side suffered a headline grabbing loss to David Moyes new team Real Sociedad, seemingly the last straw for some Barcelona fans. Since that humiliating loss however, Enrique and Barcelona have completely turned things around and put the foibles of the past behind them. Enrique has found the formula for getting Luis Suarez playing, adding goals to his assists and Lionel Messi himself has gone from being 12 goals behind rival Cristiano Ronaldo to two in front of him in a run that has seen him net 21 times in 2015 alone. Barcelona now look set to claim the La Liga title and are strong favourites for the Champions League, given they see their way past Manchester City tonight. Barcelona go into the tie as favourites, mainly due to their first leg advantage, but this probably would not have been the case earlier in the year. Enrique has established himself at the club with a notable reduction in player changes and a more familiar and deadly attacking approach. Enrique has certainly turned it around.
Words by Ben Fawcett and Joe Walker