On Tuesday at Etihad Stadium, Manchester City and Barcelona will embark in a battle of true soccer powers with vastly different levels of Champions League experience.
This match, the first leg of a two-leg affair, will mark Manchester City's first Champions League appearance in a knockout stage match. Barcelona, as you've probably noticed, has had a few of those. In fact, the Catalan giants have won this competition three times in the last eight seasons.
Although the experience levels would indicate that Barcelona is going to roll in this match, that would be a dangerous assumption.
The Citizens have been impressive this season domestically and in Champions League play. That includes a 3-2 away victory over Bayern Munich. As you may recall, Bayern Munich whupped Barcelona in the semifinal of this competition last year.
Also, as former manager of Barcelona's rival (Real Madrid) and current manager of one of Manchester City's rivals (Chelsea), Jose Mourinho informs us that this Barcelona team is not as good as the ones that were winning those titles:
Adding to hopes that this will be a thrilling battle is the fact that both sides will roll into this match in the midst of solid form.
Last time on the pitch, City beat Chelsea 2-0 in an FA Cup battle, and Barcelona easily defeated Rayo Vallecano, 6-0, their last time on the pitch.
This figures to be the best of all of the Champions League Round of 16 matchups. Here are the vitals to catching the action.
When: Feb. 18 at 2:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. GMT
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
TV: Fox Deportes
Live Stream: FoxSoccer2Go
Key Storyline: Can Manuel Pellegrini take down Barcelona?
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has helped the Citizens display the kind of top form in international play that this team has been showcasing in the Premier League.
That has led the Citizens to this match against a Barcelona team that isn't a stranger to success on any stage. Of course, we don't have to tell Pellegrini this. He has had ample time to absorb Barcelona's accomplishments whilst they were smashing the teams he's been in charge of.
As manager of Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, Pellegrini is just 4-4-14 against Barcelona.
Despite his poor track record against Barcelona, Pellegrini is not about to back down from the challenge. Paul Collins of the Daily Mail passed along this Pellegrini quote:
It's a good chance to show how good we are. They have a lot of experience, they have a great team, they have the best player in the world but I think also we are a good team with good players.
I don't have any fear about playing Barcelona because this team has got to continue to develop the mentality to play against important teams, whether that's in the last 16, the quarter-final. I hope we can win at home.
Pellegrini has good reason to hope his team can win at home. The Citizens have been imposing at Etihad this year. In Premier League play, they are 11-0-1 and have outscored opponents 42-9 on their home pitch.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-2 Barcelona
It is difficult to pick against the Citizens in Etihad, but Manchester City's prolific offense has been struggling a bit.
Yes, they are coming off of a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Etihad, but that was in FA Cup play. Prior to that, the Citizens were held scoreless in two straight matches and one of those was at Etihad.
Barcelona will frustrate City with their possession play, and that will lead them to victory.
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