In all of the games to be played on the third Matchday of the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League, I can’t see any other bigger than the Barcelona vs Manchester City clash. And it’s not hard to see the so many reasons why.
Pep Guardiola is returning to his roots, the one place it all started. Where the trophies piled up and records after records tumbled over each other. He’s paying the beast he created a visit. Camp Nou is the destination. And he’s taking his new (latest) project along with him.
Of course, it’s easy to call the bluff of this one game (not easy for a fan like me though). Afterall it’ll be tiki-taka vs tiki-taka, gengen pressing vs the same, high backline vs high backline. So why all the hype? It’ll just be a classic case of who can perform the routine better. Pffftt!
But that’s exactly what makes this Champions League game the one to watch, The One That Must Not Be Missed!
Barcelona, on the one hand, have had their own fair share of ups and downs in the La Liga this season. Some stunning results. Some amazing displays. And some surprising scorelines (Hello Celta!). But in all, they have consistently proved one thing: how deadly they are. How deadly they can be.
I experienced, first hand this season, some of the raw power that this Catalan beast possesses. It was an away game at Leganes, a Saturday mid-day kick off. Leganes flew off the blocks and threw it all at Barcelona! For the first quarter or so, Suarez, Neymar and co. were on the back foot. They seemed rattled, but they coped.
The first half ended with three goals, all scored by Barcelona. I was shocked. “That escalated quickly,” I said to myself. Yes I expected a beating. But with the way the newly-promoted side played early in the game, I didn’t expect it to come so quickly! The game ended 1-5 in favour of You-Know-Who.
I can almost hear you say, “It was only Leganes.” And I quickly agree. But this Leganes is a side with very fast players, all lacking just one thing: goal scoring techniques. It’s the kind of team that’ll make others drop points after 90 minutes. So, how did they end up losing by such a wide margin?
* The MSN Connect.
* A certain Lionel Messi.
* A show-boating Neymar.
* A be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time Luis Suarez.
* A different kind of back four.
And with every game, the above-stated reasons grow stronger as seen in their display against Deportivo La Coruna over the weekend. So much to think about for Pep and his Citizens who have been described to be in some sort of crisis.
Judging by Guardiola’s standards, going three games without a win is crisis. A DLD form is not good news. And now, the dreaded visit to Spain. But it’s not all gloom for Man. City is it?
Actually, no. It’s hard to answer that question in the negative with that kind of form staring you in the face. But it’s the truth. And, like I did with Barca, I’ll use one of Man. City’s recent games to point out some of their strengths. Their game against Everton seems to be the perfect pick simply because they were the better team on the day, but still didn’t win.
It was Manchester City from beginning to the end (well, except for the part where Lukaku scored for Everton via a counterattack). It was a rampant Man. City against a well-organized, compact Everton. While De Bruyne and Sane and Sterling and Silva were doing all the playing, Everton was doing all the defending.
City needed Nolito who came off the bech to score for them, after missing two penalties. It was the tale of a team that was ‘Dominant, But Unlucky.’ What then is there to learn from a draw?
* Kevin De Bruyne is a secret weapon.
* Guardiola has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
* John Stones is a BETA version of Gerard Pique.
* A Silver Silva.
* Number of chances created.
The Philosopher has started a project in Manchester. So far so good, things are looking up. First on the log ain’t bad, at all.
I’ve discussed Barcelona and I’ve discussed Manchester City, albeit separately. Time to pitch them against each other. Move over boring Liverpool vs Manchester United game! Here’s what you can expect to see in the Barcelona vs Manchester City game:
– Neymar Will Definitely Showboat: It’s becoming a norm in his games these days. And it won’t be a surprise to see him nutmeg a certain Sagna/Zabaleta or give Otamendi a handful of headaches.
P.S: Note to Pep
A recipe for disaster will be to ask Otamendi to take care of Neymar. We both know how clumsy Nico can be. John Stones (that cool-headed lad) will be a more preferable option. That’s if you don’t mind of course.
– The Kevin de Bruyne-X Factor: Pep must have done something to the kid. He seems to have new tricks up his sleeves. He tends to work extra hard too. Players like Pique and Matthieu better be wary.
– Barcelona’s Fragile Backline: I know I’ve made a strong case for the Catalans’ defense. Attack is still the best form of defense. But the way they imploded against Celta Vigo should be a huge boost for Man. City. Then there’s the goalkeeper ish. We dunno which goalkeeper will show up: the really good one or the awkward one?
– The Pep Guardiola Factor: Let’s take a moment to reflect on the words of Everton manager, Ronald Koeman. “They (Manchester City) are the best team in my managerial career that I’ve played against.” With the kind of squad at his disposal, Guardiola can pull more than one rabbit from his hat. He’s that flexible. Hard to predict. That’s something in City’s favour, right?
– Messi the Mesmerizer and Suarez the Biter Fighter: It’s increasingly becoming hard to come up with anything to say about this 8th (or/and 9th) wonder of the world. The word MESSi, in all its literal sense, should be on display. Suarez will most definitely trouble the waters. May be a hat trick. May be a red card. May be a dive in the box. Another racial stunt? Who knows?
– Aguero and ‘Kompany’: After so many words, word play is allowed right? It’s not sure who will get the nod to play and who won’t. Of course e sure for some names. Players who have been STERLING will definitely get the nod over others. Why not? Pep will want to field his best.
So who will win?
Not sure. It all smells Barcelona from here. But with football, everything is crazy. But I can sense there’ll be goals. A handful of ’em. City aren’t the most disciplined side at the back. They seem to love conceding goals. And MSN will be happy to rattle their onion bag once or twice.
It’s not far-fetched to say Manchester City can score too. The only game they’ve failed to score in under Pep Guardiola, is the one against Tottenham.
* Both Teams To Score
* Over 2.5 Goals
What do you think? What? You think it’ll end in a bore draw? A Barca win? City win? Let me know what you think. Please leave a comment in the comments section. I’d like to hear from you.
Like a famous man once said, please join me in saying this short prayer:
“Dear god of football, we thank thee, for this sumptuous meal of football we’re about to be served.”
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.