With the clocks going back and the winter weather fast approaching, the champions’ league group stage is half way through its cycle after last rounds fixtures and this week’s fixtures could see some teams already qualify for the knockout stages. One of those teams is Barcelona, who travel to the Etihad to face Manchester City in tonight’s high profile game, knowing a win would see them qualify as group winners.
Luis Henrique’s side humbled Guardiola’s Manchester City during the last round of fixtures and the Citizens will need a better performance if they are to come out on top. They will have to do so without goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo after his red card a fortnight ago, meaning Willy Caballero will deputise in goal- something that Guardiola has no concerns about. ‘’He gives me confidence. I have no doubts about him.”City will also be missing right-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna through injury, with either Fernando or Pablo Maffeo available to fill in.
Barcelona have fresh injury concerns with Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and Aleix Vidal all missing through injury, whilst Jeremy Mathieu is suspended after receiving a red card in the first meeting. It could see Enrique give starts to summer signings Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti. Arda Turan could feature after recovering from injury and defender Marlon- who could start at right back- joined up late with the squad after forgetting his passport.
Barcelona top the group and a win would see them qualify as group leaders. City, on the other hand, are in a more precarious position and a loss tonight could seem them slip out of 2nd place- if Borussia Monchengladbach beat Celtic, meaning City would need to go to Germany and win. Something Guardiola is acutely aware of. “For us it is ( Game aginst Barcelona) like a final…We dropped points in Glasgow [at Celtic] and we have to recover those points.”
The omens, however, are not good for Guardiola’s men, with City failing to win any of their previous five champions league matches against Barcelona. Although, City will be buoyed by their victory against West Brom and will hope Sergio Aguero- who is expected to start tonight after having started the previous meeting on the bench- can pick up where he left off at the weekend.
Everything seems set for a fantastic night of football at the Etihad and Manchester City fans will be hoping for a good result tonight to further their aspirations of qualifying top of group C.