Barcelona Show Frailties That Can Be Exploited by Manchester City

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014


After Barcelona beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, things looked easy for them. On paper, anyway.

The truth was that such a strong result may have affected them adversely, as discussed on Bleacher Report after the game.

Many Blaugrana supporters didn't feel that would be the case, but since then Barcelona have put in three poor performances, including two of the worst results of the season.

Barcelona's 3-1 defeat by Real Sociedad was poor.

The subsequent 4-1 victory at home over Almeria was another impressive looking scoreline but it was harsh on the visitors, who for much of the second half were impressive.

And on Saturday afternoon they put in a totally toothless display against Valladolid.

Improvement needed: Neymar could have scored.
Improvement needed: Neymar could have scored.Israel L. Murillo/Associated Press

One excellent chance for Neymar aside, they failed to create any clear-cut goalscoring chances.

Lionel Messi had a couple of efforts at goal well dealt with, but by and large, Barcelona were lacking in a cutting edge.

Fausto Rossi scored the only goal of the game, capitalising on a ricochet inside the box, reacting first to fire it past the helpless Victor Valdes in Barcelona's net.

Magic moment: Fausto Rossi struck the only goal.
Magic moment: Fausto Rossi struck the only goal.Israel L. Murillo/Associated Press

Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano seemed like they were half asleep and the damage was done.

Funnily enough, even though the pair have been much maligned this season and Barcelona do need a new central defender, after that they actually played reasonably well.

But if they let their guards down even for a moment at the Camp Nou, then the likes of Sergio Aguero will be ready to pounce.

The Argentine striker has been City's best player this season, perhaps with the exception of Yaya Toure, and he will love the chance to buzz around and cause trouble in Tata Martino's defence.

Martino has been criticised this season for rotating too much, but he picked the strongest side available to him today, with the exception of the rested Jordi Alba.

With Andres Iniesta withdrawing from the squad before the game, Barcelona lacked inspiration.

Messi made some moves of his own, but it didn’t seem like there was much of a concerted team effort.

Neymar turned in another sloppy display and Martino would do well to play Alexis Sanchez instead on Wednesday night.

Dropping the Brazilian may have some political ramifications, given the trials and tribulations over his transfer, but Sanchez has performed better this season.

He wasted possession on a couple of occasions and had one abysmal effort from long distance, launched high into the stands, with his team-mates frustrated at his decision to shoot.

Martino substituted Cesc Fabregas for Sanchez in the second half, but Neymar should have been hooked instead.

Sergio Busquets spoke after the game, as reported by Spanish language publication Sport, explaining that the team did not have the right attitude.

Now, that shouldn’t be a problem on Wednesday night against Manchester City.

It's easier to motivate yourself for a Champions League clash under the lights of the Camp Nou than it is for an away day at Valladolid.

Barcelona's players won't need to be inspired by Martino for the visit on Manuel Pellegrini's side.

The prize is a place in the Champions League quarter-finals and this team will know how to conduct themselves.

But motivation is an issue for the smaller matches, when it seems like some Barcelona stars are just expecting things to fall into place.

Raring to go: Sergio Aguero will be excited about facing Barca.
Raring to go: Sergio Aguero will be excited about facing Barca.Scott Heppell/Associated Press

City will take heart from the Blaugrana’s defeat by Valladolid, encouraged by the slack defending for the goal, and the lack of cutting edge shown when Barcelona needed to score.

It might encourage the English side to put more force into their attacks, if they believe that Barcelona won’t just be able to cut them open at the back.

Of course, the likelihood is that Barcelona will still progress.

They will have to play nearly as bad as they did against Valladolid to get knocked out, especially considering they are at home and have two away goals.

But Pellegrini should make wiser selection choices—i.e., he can't pick Martin Demichelis—and benefit from Aguero’s return.

Even if they can’t claw their way into the next round, they might be able to give Barcelona the shock to the system they so badly need.


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