Pep Guardiola returns to the Camp Nou tonight to take on the incredible side he helped to create.
It’s four years since the Catalan left Barcelona to seek a new challenge. Bayern Munich was his destination, and he now finds himself as Manchester City’s boss.
Nobody knows Barcelona better than Guardiola but if you thought that gave the 45-year-old an advantage, think again.
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The Blaugrana have had three managers since Guardiola - the late Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino and current coach Luis Enrique.
One constant has been Lionel Messi, of course. Guardiola’s number one task at the Camp Nou will be stopping the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
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Though Barca wear the same colours, play in a similar style and continue to win trophies, the personnel has undergone plenty of changes.
GiveMeSport has a look at Barcelona’s XI in Guardiola’s final season, in 2011-12, compared with the current team.
Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Eric Abidal; Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta; Pedro, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar.
So that’s six changes to the starting line-up - seven if you include Messi's switch from a false 9 to the right. Barcelona have transitioned into a team that engulfs opponents from the get go instead of exhausting them through playing possession football.
Here’s a profile of the six new faces.
Ter Stegen | GK | Signed: 2014
Ter Stegen supplanted Claudio Bravo as Barcelona’s number one goalkeeper in the summer.
He was Pep Guardiola’s original target at Manchester City but the Spanish club weren’t willing to sell one of the brightest ‘keepers in Europe.
Sergi Roberto | RB | La Masia graduate
Guardiola gifted Roberto his first-team debut in 2010 but he had to wait until last year to truly assert himself in the senior side.
Jordi Alba | LB | Signed: 2012
Alba has become one of the better left backs in Europe, his marauding style an asset in a team that requires attacking influence from all its players.
Ivan Rakitic | CM | Signed: 2014
Rakitic has ensured Xavi’s departure from the midfield hasn’t gone unfilled. A fine technician, the Croatian can be relied upon to chip in with plenty of goals.
Luis Suarez | ST | Signed: 2014
Suarez will rank as one of Barca’s greatest ever signings. With 93 goals in 107 appearances, is there any argument over the best striker in the world?
Neymar | LW | Signed: 2013
Neymar fits into Barcelona’s system like a glove, with skill and dribbling the perfect compliment to Suarez and Messi. There’s no wonder he’s held up as a potential Ballon d’Or winner, and the heir to Messi’s throne.
Which City team is better, the one of 2012 or the current team? Let us know in the comments section below!
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