Frank Lampard thinks that Barcelona are nearly back to being as good as they were under Pep Guardiola as Manchester City prepare to face the European giants.
Speaking on the eve of their Champions League last-16 clash, the veteran midfielder said: “I think we’re all gushing about the team that they had.
“I think they were at their absolute best when Messi, David Villa, Iniesta and Xavi were absolutely flying. It is a slightly new team as a bit of a transition has happened, but I think in recent games they have been getting up to those sort of levels again.”
Barcelona lost at home at the weekend to La Liga strugglers Malaga but that doesn’t mean anything to Lampard as he has faced them enough times over the years to know they have the players in their team that are capable of beating anyone.
Lampard said: “We are going to be facing a really strong team with individuals including, for me, the greatest player in the world in Lionel Messi. So whatever way you look at it, it’s going to be a really tough game.”
Lampard captained Chelsea when they won this competition in 2012, but his current team, City, don’t have a great record in the Champions League. In their first two season in the tournament from 2011 to 2013, they failed to get out their group. Then last year they reached this stage but were eliminated by Barcelona, so they will be hoping that doesn’t happen again. But can Man City consider themselves as contenders for Europe’s ultimate prize this season? Lampard thinks so.
He said: “I think that anyone that looks at this will say that there’s five or six teams that are in contention: Barcelona, Man City are two of them, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and I think generally in the Champions League in recent years the big boys come out playing against each other.
“I think maybe Man City would be disappointed in recent years where they have got to the Champions League but for me it is coming, it’s a club that is forward thinking.
“I can feel it in the club and we are certainly aware about what a big game this is. It’s a situation where we want to take it on and show that you can get past Barcelona and try and advance all the way to the final.”
The former Chlesea star couldn’t give Barcelona enough praise as he recalled growing up watching them and the likes of Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes perform for the Catalans.
He said: “I would have been watching Barcelona at about 10 years old, I was always a big football fan.
"We grew up with Barcelona as one of the top few clubs in world football and then as a teenager it was always a very glamorous club.
"In the last five to eight years they have created a new history of football. I have played against them many a time and they have become the main team in world club football.”
City might have to call on Lampard’s European experience as he played nearly 150 times in European games and has played Barcelona on multiple occasions while at Chelsea. At the age of 36, Lampard can still be influential in the big games as you can rely on him to get a goal when needed. Maybe he could end up being the difference.