Manchester City - Barcelona - How do the Teams Compare?
With the Champions League round of 16 looming ever large in a few weeks, it is time to take a look at a few of the matchups in coming weeks. The most hotly anticipated matchup of the round is undoubtedly Barcelona against Manchester City. On one end, you have arguably the most celebrated team of the last few years and on the other you have an English side that is trying to establish itself as one of the elites in the world.
How do they match up?
Both sides have a plethora of superstars, Spanish superstars no less. City has David Silva, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas leading the way alongside Argentine Sergio Aguero. Barcelona of course has its own Argentine superstar in Lionel Messi but has a supporting cast of Spanish studs like Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, and Gerard Pique. Throw in Neymar and Alexis Sanchez and Barcelona looks like the favorite. But it is not really that easy.
Why Manchester City has the advantage...
The English side has just as potent an offense as Barcelona and has size up front that could hurt the Spanish side's fragile defense. Barcelona's 3-2 loss to Valencia this weekend reminded the world that this team can score, but it has a hard time keeping the ball out of its own net. City also recently defeated Bayern Munich (in December) and has the confidence to go against any top team. It also helps to be playing at home, where they have only lost once in the Premier League and once in the UCL (against Munich).
Why Barcelona has the advantage...
Barcelona's defense is far from great; but City's is nothing to brag about. The goaltending is also a cause for concern as Joe Hart has yet to prove that he has returned to his top form. Factor in Barcelona's strong passing game and its speed on the flanks with Neymar and Sanchez and they should have no difficulty unlocking City's defense. Furthermore, the Spaniards also know that the English side is woeful away from the Ethiad Stadium and will likely take advantage of that in the second leg.
Players to Watch
The English side will hope to win the battle of the Argentineans. Sergio Aguero is the team's top offensive weapon and will be relied heavily on to break down Barcelona's weak defense. If Barca manages to stifle his space, then it will have a huge advantage in this battle.
Over at Barcelona, the player to watch is not Messi (you always watch him), but Xavi. The Spanish midfielder has not been at his best and this has greatly affected Barcelona's passing game. He needs to control the pace of the game if Barcelona is to win this matchup.
Prediction: Barcelona and City tie 1-1 in the opening leg but the Spaniards cruise with a 2-0 win at home.
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