Barcelona’s sporting director Andoni Zubizaretta’s face told a story when the Catalans were drawn out of the hat to face Manchester City for the second season running in the Champions League.
You didn’t have to be an expert in body language to know that the Citizens are one of the sides that ‘Zubi’ would’ve preferred to avoid at this stage of the competition. It's difficult to understand why he appeared to be a wince at the prospect however.
A deserved and fantastic win in Rome aside, Manuel Pellegrini's side struggled throughout the group stages, qualifying by the skin of their teeth.
Much has been made of their defeat of Bayern Munich, but the Germans had already qualified and their minds surely weren't on the job in hand. It still took until the very last minute for Sergio Aguero to seal the points in any event.
History against Pellegrini
History is against Pellegrini given his own poor record against the Catalans, and he will be just as concerned as Zubizaretta even if the Blaugrana aren't enjoying the best of seasons themselves.
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City’s current run is deserving of a more detailed assessment but it's worth remembering that Stoke, West Ham and CSKA Moscow have all got the better of City this season.
City were devoid of a cohesive team ethic and disjointed throughout those games and if Barca have done their homework, they’ll have noted a number of weak points which will be exploited.
Luis Enrique’s own selection in both games will be interesting. Thus far he has started with 24 different XI’s in 24 matches. He'll continue with the same from the beginning of 2015.
It’s that kind of management that has had media and players alike scratching their heads.
Behind-the-scenes upheaval at Barca is the only possible glimmer that City can hang onto at this stage.
When their backs are against the wall, the Catalans are still as dangerous as any other team in Europe and with Messi at the helm anything is possible.
His goal against Paris Saint-Germain gave him another undisputed accolade - the first player in history to score 7 goals in seven successive Champions League seasons.
Against the French side, most of the pre-match talk was about how then-unbeaten PSG would undo the Blaugrana, how Barcelona’s brittle defence would succumb to the pressure of the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the spearhead to PSG’s own charge to the top of the group.
To say PSG were schooled is an understatement. Barca rarely needed to get out of second gear, and when they did, they were lethal.
Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were all on the score sheet for the first time in a single game this season, and were a thorn in PSG’s side throughout.
60 percent possession with a 90 percent pass accuracy speaks volumes of how well the Catalans played against such talented opposition.
The much-maligned defence were rock-solid for the most part, dispelling any fears of struggle against the top teams.
Over two legs Barcelona will show their class again. City’s attempt to become the ‘new Barca’ will just have to wait for another season.
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