Few months from today, Manchester City will take a leap into the unknown. Into one of the most intense fixtures in the clubs history, facing Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16, with an attempt at proving their credentials as a genuine European force and the fact that money matters.
It can be easy to forget the significance of this matchup considering that there is normally no hype around City playing in Europe. They have basked at the Europa level for quite some time and not to forget, the 1970 historical conquest at Praterstadion in Vienna against Górnik Zabrze. But it is certain that the current crop of accolade-hungry fans at the Eastland’s Etihad will not be entertained to the club’s experience in the European scene since the 70’s.
As Pellegrini and the rest of his posse begin to grapple with how to sustain the gung-ho mentality seen in recent performances, he can only be fortified to act with the same courage and vision which we saw while he was with Malaga.
The fans should also remind themselves about the importance of Pellegrini’s immediate past. With stints at a few Spanish outlets including the brief not so musical (referring to his statement – “It’s no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well”) spell at Real Madrid. And to take the unexpected and the financially burdened Malaga to new heights, which ended with a quarterfinal loss to Borussia Dortmund. His time in Spain would suggest that he might have some tricks hidden up his sleeves against the Catalans, however; Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t won any of his last 12 meetings with Barcelona.
Barcelona, of course, is truly over-weighed with the advantages. For one out a few, a 100% or to lets say a 30% healthy Messi on his day possesses the left foot that can destroy any team. Secondly, out of the 72 matches played against English opponents, they have won 31 and tied 20.
On the other hand, Manchester City had won 3 and tied 4 against its Spanish opposition. In numbers, Barcelona has a 43% win rate against the English and City – 30% against the Spanish. The two had faced each other 6 times in friendly games, with Barcelona winning 3 of those.
Moreover, what makes this bout all the more exciting is the anxious response of a Catalonian media on the prospects of facing City prior to and after the announcement. A local sports publication – El Mundo Deportivo – published the following cover page.
Yet the contrast between the two in their gameplay could hardly be debatable with one common element attributable to both – Defense. With Barcelona and City under threat from ridiculous defensive lapses, there is a need for managements, to revive the reform program before they meet.
So far both managers have complemented each other with Pellegrini referring to the fixture as a beautiful game between the two.
“I think it is a beautiful game with two very good teams.”
For many fans, this will be a traumatic experience. Pellegrini’s decision on the defensive end and poor proficiency in math underlines the challenges facing the club at the moment.