Manchester City vs. Barcelona: Three key things to watch

A tactical battle awaits as Pep Guardiola looks to stop his former side

BY Adrian Collins 14:10 Tuesday 1 November 2016, 14:10 1 Nov 2016

Manchester City manager Josep Guardiola during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Manchester City welcome Barcelona to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night, and there will most certainly be an entertaining match after the Catalan side claimed a 4-0 victory in their last meeting. 

After a poor run of results, Pep Guardiola's side eased the pressure with an impressive win on the weekend over West Brom, where they also hit Tony Pulis' side for four goals. 

However, there will be a much sterner test for them in the Champions League as Luis Enrique brings Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suárez, along with the rest of his star-studded Barcelona side, to Manchester on Tuesday.

Avoiding mistakes

It should go without saying, but this will be absolutely crucial if Manchester City hope to make this a closer contest than the defeat they suffered at the Camp Nou. 

It's easier said than done, of course - Fernandinho didn't mean to fall over to gift Lionel Messi the first goal in the last game, and despite the criticism he received, Claudio Bravo's handball and red card was most certainly not in the game plan last time out. 

Heads dropped after that and there's almost no team in the world that could hope to compete with Barcelona's passing and pressing with just 10 men on the field, but it's fair to say that mistakes turned that game from what should have been a close contest into one-way traffic.

Too many mistakes from John Stones at the back (who missed a header that could have pulled his side back into the game also), as well as poor decision making from Nolito and Ilkay Gündogan cost City, and they will need to show that they are up to the challenge of the highest level this time out.

Agüero's role

Goals on the weekend were big for Agüero, who celebrated them like they meant a little bit more to him than his average brace against opposition from the lower half of the Premier League table.

The emphatic way he slammed the ball into the top corner reinforced exactly what it is he gives the team when they do manage to get into opposition territory, while his dinked ball through for Gündogan's first goal shows his vision in setting up other team-mates for chances too. 

 

Image: David Davies EMPICS Sport

Guardiola faced plenty of criticism for leaving Agüero out in the first game against Barcelona, and he couldn't really have made a stronger case for his inclusion than dictating the game against West Brom.

However, they won't see nearly as much of the ball in Tuesday's match and, given that they did manage to create some chances when they still had 11 players on the pitch in the Catalan capital. The majority of them came from wide areas however, and ended up being merely lacklustre crosses or shots from impossible angles. Agüero's form suggests he's able to provide a central presence, and can give Pep a platform to build on in this match. 

Defensive pressure

It's too simple to say that both sides are similar in their approach to the game, but both defences will have to deal with being pressed by the opposition, the reaction to which can swing the game entirely. Just ask Claudio Bravo...

His absence means that the "out" ball back to the goalkeeper won't be as much of an option for City, who will be harried all night by Barcelona, and that could lead to them looking to adapt and play longer when they're under pressure, gifting precious possession back to their guests.

Without Andrés Iniesta, Barcelona are also missing a key piece of their jigsaw puzzle, however. They secured a narrow victory over Granada in La Liga this weekend in his absence, but they showed that they miss his creativity and ability to move the ball around the pitch. They are also without Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba and Aleix Vidal in the backline.

Guardiola may look to capitalise on that by pressuring Barcelona in the transition, giving them fewer options to find the right pass.

Two weeks is a long time in football, and with so many changes to the gameplan on both sides, this encounter looks set to provide a very different test for Pep's City, as much as it does for Enrique's Barcelona. 

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