Sid has signed off...
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Here are a few more pieces worth reading this afternoon:
Enjoy the match...
A question from abroad (not England). “...likely that they’ll ruin tonight’s game with their theatrics, moaning, diving, arguing with the ref, Xavi thinking he is the ref, and all round general cheating? They have been known to resort to that in past Champions Leagues as soon as they realise they’re in a contest, or are they better behaved under the new manager than they were under the previous two?”..
I read quite a lot observations like these on the Guardian website. Why is that, do you think? I read Dutch papers, German papers and American papers but only the English fans seem to think that Barça are a bunch of stealing and cheating players. Could this be some kind of envy?
Hi Sid (from a Madrid bookshop you know well), although many here will be claiming this match will produce a potential trophy winner, isn’t it the case that German clubs (in particular Bayern Munich) are the ones who will need knocking off their perch? Or do you think that Barça (or Manchester City) will stand a better chance of competing against Bayern this year. Always assuming the Arse don’t do it first...
Isn’t the comparison of Man City to Barça a little, well, nuts - A team who’ve won one league title by the skin of their teeth, never got out of the CL group stage before and lost last year’s FA Cup final to a bottom three team, and led by a manager whose medal collection wouldn’t trouble a teaspoon’s worth of metal polish. Isn’t this just hubris and arrogance that would make Mourinho blush? One team in Manchester? Let’s see which one that make it to the quarter-finals, shall we!
Much has been made of City having to change a 4-4-2 shape that Pellegrini has adhered to regardless of results or opposition. Whether or not this leaves us short numbered in midfield, how often do Barcelona come up against this system, against who and how do they seek to address this?
Rick Holden or Lionel Messi?
I was listening to the Spanish Football Podcast yesterday, which I think is excellent and worthy of a plug (especially if it gets me a response), and heard you describe Xavi as the best Spanish footballer in history. I just wanted to ask why you would choose Xavi over Iniesta, because I’ve always thought Xavi was more important to the system but it would never of reached the level it did without Iniesta.
Do you think Barcelona can afford to lose this game, in the same way as they did in Milan? Their away form in Europe hasn’t been great recently. (Two wins in 10, I think.)
What are Barcelona’s weaknesses and how are they best exploited?
What do you think is the best improvement that Martino has made in Barcelona comparing to the last season? If any...
Furthermore, do you think that Pellegrini will opt for 4-2-3-1 tonight or with a rather hazardous 4-4-2?
Martino mentioned the constant use of rotation this season in order to avoid a repeat of last year where they came up short against Bayern. Do you think the gulf in class was due to, a large extent, this tiredness or do you think Barça just cannot match them at the moment, regardless?
Barça have always been very proactive in regenerating their teams. Do you think that they are making the mistake of keeping their players from the great era for a little too long? Xavi and Dani Alves surely are past their best years. Especially Dani Alves who does not offer much in defence and is often static in attack, contributing very little other than keeping the ball. Mascherano? Are they untouchable at Barça?
Ryan RyRy Gilmore asks:
Would failure to beat Manchester City over the two legs put doubts to Martino lasting past the summer? Yes he is joint top of La Liga, but this isn’t seen as anything but a mandatory requirement for Barcelona. I just feel having seen some of the comments from players and the media Martino may not have a secure a grip of his position as he would like.
What with Barça and Messi’s recent record in this country being a shit one, do you think this only makes it all the more likely that they’ll ruin tonight’s game with their theatrics, moaning, diving, arguing with the ref, Xavi thinking he is the ref, and all round general cheating? They have been known to resort to that in past Champions Leagues as soon as they realise they’re in a contest, or are they better behaved under the new manager than they were under the previous two?
Do you think City will try do a “Bayern” (semis last season) sit back and hit Barça on the coutner and set pieces? Or will they try and fight fire with fire (possesion)?
Where teams tend to go wrong against Barça is that they tend to concentrate so much on stopping Messi than actually playing against Barça as a team. Many managers double up on the Argentinian freeing up the likes of players such as Iniesta and Sanchez. I hope Pellegrini doesn’t have Fernandinho chasing him around all night leaving Yaya over-ran in the middle of the park. Im still going for a score draw, thoughts?
What do you make of Bartomeu so far? ( I know it’s not long!) He seems to be reaching out ( to Cruyff for example). Can he put the mal rollo in the “entorno” to rest for a while? How big a tie is this as regards Bartomeu’s reign as president? Cheers!
Hi Sid. Good article about the City “blueprint”. Any truth in the rumour that Isco might be coming to City after all this summer? I’m a bit sceptical, as £30m sounds like more than we were rumoured to have bid last summer. And kind of related, how about Valdes?
Is there a case to be made for Martino repeating some of his tactics that worked well in the clasico? Playing Messi on the right could potentially neutralise the attacking threats of Kolorov and Silva, as well as exploit their defensive weakness. And following the Guardiola blueprint, would it be prudent to play both Song and Busquets, with Xavi just ahead of them and Iniesta on the wing? This would leave Fabregas in the False 9 position. Surely conservatism and pragmatism are the name of the game away from home, with Martino being more than willing to do what’s best for a specific game?
Does Xavi get in Barcelona’s best XI anymore? And if not, what are the consequences?
Do you think Yaya Touré and Fernandhino have the ability to handle the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and Iniesta in the centre of midfield?
Siddharth Upasani asks:
Hi Sid. The return of Kompany has helped City’s backline. However, their defence is still vulnerable if you exclude Zabaleta and Kompany. The same defensive problems plague Barcelona. Do you see the shift to a more attacking approach – and the resultant loss in defensive composure – from the top European sides as a by-product of this midfield-heavy mentality, with central defenders being asked to play further up the pitch, while the full-backs are asked to push up and support the wingers?
1. Do you think Navas will start and, in relation to that, do you think Alves and Alba will stay closer to the half-way line at the Etihad than they usually do?
2. Do you think we will see Barça trying to be more “anaesthetic” with the ball than they have been so far under Martino?