How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Manchester City

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How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Manchester City
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Tata Martino and Manuel Pellegrini have squads to die for. Who will come out on top?

Barcelona travel to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday to take on a Manchester City side brimming with confidence and scoring goals for fun.

It's a Champions League tie to really whet the appetite.

A classy European stalwart against the nouveau riche. A club whose homegrown success lies at the very core of its beliefs and football model, against one that has bought success.

As the Citizens continue to grow, there are more comparisons to be made with the Blaugrana.

Former Barca Vice President Ferran Soriano is now chief executive officer at City. Txiki Begiristain is sporting director at the club, a position he previously held at the Catalans.

The "Etihad Campus," to be built a stone's throw from the main stadium, is a larger, more modern twist on Barca's original La Masia, which was next door to the Camp Nou.

The "Etihad Campus"

In Manuel Pellegrini, City have hired an urbane and knowledgeable manager who likes to play football the right way and entertain when possible. And boy have they entertained this season!

Aside from the most recent loss at home against Chelsea, goals have certainly flowed at the stadium lately.

Six against West Ham, five against Blackburn, four against Cardiff and four against Watford. Not forgetting another three away at West Ham and five away at Tottenham, per WhoScored.com.

Manchester City are the highest scorers in Europe's top five leagues, and such goalscoring prowess deserves appropriate acknowledgement.

According to BBC Sport, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo have scored 49 goals between them alone.

Yet for all their swashbuckling abandon, a number of teams have given Pellegrini's men a run for their money, with Norwich the latest as they held on for a 0-0 draw last time out.

Watford were two goals to the good in their FA Cup tie before succumbing to City's superior fire power, and Fulham drew level after being two goals down themselves, only to run out of steam in the latter stages.

Opposing teams generally can, and do, get on the scoresheet regularly against this side, but this is a City vintage of the "you score two, we'll score three" variety.

With Barcelona bringing a first-class goal threat themselves, however, we could be talking about one of the classic European games in a few days' time.

In order to take any advantage back to Camp Nou, Tata Martino's defensive selections will be crucial.

Does he take the game to his opponents by having both Dani Alves and Jordi Alba raiding down the wings, or should he be more conservative in either position?

Who will win this absorbing contest?

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Either Martin Montoya or Adriano Correia are adept at providing a more stable defensive presence, so Martino may well plump to have one attacking wing back and one to "stay home."

One stays, one goes is a far more pragmatic way of dealing with the dual threat of Jesus Navas and David Silvathe major concern will be, as usual, in the centre of defence.

Carles Puyol really should be brought out of cold storage for this one. His leadership qualities and experience will be invaluable, and alongside Gerard Pique, Barca's defence look capable. Should Martino plump for Javier Mascherano, then Barca could have real problems.

We have seen Mascherano's influence plummet over the past few weeks, and his partnership with Pique continues to provide rich pickings for opposing attackers.

Alvaro Negredo has taken on all comers so far this season and emerged triumphant throughout. A Pique-Mascherano pairing is there to be bullied, which is why Puyol's inclusion is a must.

Alvaro Negredo is on fire.

Yaya Toure's sale at Barca was inevitable with the emergence of Sergio Busquets, and the ability of the latter to stop the marauding runs of the former is likely to be another key feature of this game.

Andres Iniesta is playing himself back into his best form, and alongside Xavi Hernandez, he will make up a strong midfield. Whether Toure and probably Milner allow them the time they would like on the ball, we will find out soon enough.

How Pellegrini must be ruing the fact he cannot call on Fernandinho's boundless energy alongside Toure to disrupt the Blaugrana passing carousel.

And Lionel Messi will give the Chilean even more cause for concern. 

City's defenders can't afford to sit back and allow the Argentine to come at them. Messi has shown on far too many occasions what he is capable of when given time and space.

Equally, his passing range is second to none, and he will continue to find Pedro Rodriguez or Cesc Fabregas at will if his own route to goal is problematic.

Expect both wide men to be replaced at some point in the game by Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom will give the home side food for thought in the latter stages of this absorbing contest.

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