Barcelona : Former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will make a keenly-watched return to the Camp Nou Stadium when his new club Manchester City take on his former employers on Wednesday in what promises to be a fascinating Champions League football match.
Guardiola’s four years as the Barcelona coach saw the club lift 14 titles between 2008 and 2012 in what was the most successful period in their history and is assured of a warm welcome at the Camp Nou, reports Xinhua.
He has quickly become a favourite with Manchester City fans as he looks to turn the club’s big-money project into European success and the first major test will come in his former hunting ground.
Barcelona have had an inconsistent start to the campaign, mixing big wins with some disappointing displays, such as the 1-2 defeat at home to Alaves and a 3-4 defeat away to Celta Vigo in La Liga.
Manchester City will think the Barcelona defence is vulnerable, although full backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto will be available.
The only doubt in the back line is whether Samuel Umtiti will replace Javier Mascherano alongside Gerard Pique. Midfielder Andres Iniesta will start after being rested at the weekend, while star striker Lionel Messi will take his place alongside goal scorers Neymar and Luis Suarez to give City’s defence plenty to think about.
Following a dominant start to their Premier League campaign, the English side has also stumbled in recent matches, drawing 1-1 at home to Everton at the weekend on the back of a defeat to Tottenham Hotspurs and a surprise 3-3 draw away to Glasgow Celtic in Champions League.
Although Guardiola also counts on impressive firepower in his side with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Nolito, the defence still looks vulnerable at times and with Fernando and Fernandinho they still lack some creativity in central midfield.
It promises to be a fascinating game with two of the favourites for the competition measuring their respective strengths, helmed by two good tacticians in Guardiola and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and strikers who can turn the game in a moment.
‘City will try to play more or less like us’
Spain and Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique has said that Manchester City’s style of play has become very similar to that of Spanish giants FC Barcelona following the arrival of manager Pep Guardiola. “These games are big matches, games in which we need to give the most. We will be playing against a very different City to the one from previous seasons,” the centre-back told reporters according to a report in Goal.com.
“Pep is in charge and has changed things. I think City are a different team to last year and all the years they came here with Pellegrini. Their style is different. They pressure high. I think they try to play more or less like us. Pep understands football the way we do. It will be a very challenging game and I hope we can win.
“Pep marked all of us who worked under him. We understand football in a different way ever since he was with us. He changed the history of the football club. The game will be a challenge. City play very similar to us. They will be pressuring. It will be a good challenge to demonstrate we are still on top by winning. We are in this group to try to be first. In order to reach this goal we need to win. If we win, we are almost through and City will be five points behind us. We will have a good margin.”