Barcelona will face a tough test on Wednesday when they host English giants Manchester City in the Champions League. After winning the first leg 2-0 at the Etihad, the Catalans will be looking to hold their lead and advance to the next round.
It is important to note that Barcelona do hold a 2-0 lead with both of those strikes coming on the road. It will certainly be unexpected for City to overturn the lead but anything can happen in football.
In Barcelona’s last few games, manager Tata Martino has made more than a few questionable lineup decisions. His rotational policy has begun to cause problems and fans will be hoping that isn’t the case on Wednesday.
This meeting may be Barcelona’s biggest game of the season thus far as they have a definite point to prove at the Camp Nou. In this article we will take a look at how the Catalans will line up against City and what that lineup will mean for the outcome.
No question here, Victor Valdes will be in goal. Barcelona’s most important object at hand is not conceding goals. Valdes will certainly start and will play a huge role in the outcome of the game.
On both sides of the defense, Martino will be taking no chances. You can expect Dani Alves to once again start and play a big role, especially after scoring the club’s second goal in the first leg.
On the left side of the back line, Adriano should get the nod again. Jordi Alba would likely be the starter but after dealing with injuries lately, Adriano is the safe bet and probably the only available option.
As is usually the case, Martino will have to make a tough decision in regards to center-backs. Gerard Pique will certainly be in the starting lineup but who will be his partner?
Seeing as though Javier Mascherano started in the club’s last match, it could be safe to assume that Marc Bartra would be in the lineup Wednesday. However, Martino seems to highly favor the Pique and Mascherano pairing, so the Argentine will likely start yet again with Bartra on the bench.
This is a huge game and the defense has got to be at their best. With that being said, there is no way Sergio Busquets misses out. The tall Catalan will definitely be in the lineup and will have one of the toughest jobs of any player on the pitch.
It is also likely that Andres Iniesta will be in the lineup as well. The 29-year-old sat out of the club’s last match and will be fresh when City come to the Camp Nou.
Iniesta always seems to be at his best in the biggest games. In the first leg, Iniesta was played out of position but managed to cause a lot of problems for the English club.
The last midfield spot is up for grabs between Cesc Fabregas and Xavi. Both started Barcelona’s last match but only one will be in the lineup Wednesday.
With Manchester City’s speed and physicality, Fabregas is the best choice in this one. The 26-year-old has been incredible as of late and has earned the right to start this match.
This is where the selection gets easy. Both Lionel Messi and Neymar will start against City and don’t be surprised if they are able to link up for more than one goal.
The right wing is the only question up front for Barcelona with Pedro and Alexis Sanchez available. Pedro started against Real Valladolid last weekend, meaning Sanchez should be in the lineup on Wednesday.
With a front three of Messi, Neymar and Sanchez, Barcelona will have a deadly trident to really trouble Manchester City.
Messi and Neymar have not had enough chances this season to build their partnership, but this Champions League clash will give them a big opportunity to show just what they can do together. City is going to have a long night.
With the English side needing to score to have any hope of advancing, it is safe to assume that City will score. Whether or not they are able to score multiple goals is hard to predict, but they will find the back of the net at least once.
However, Barcelona are not going to make things easy for their opponents. Messi will score one of his customary amazing strikes while the Catalans should get at least one more goal at some point.
City will push Barcelona and create chances, but there is no way that La Blaugrana will let a comeback take place at the Camp Nou. Barcelona will be in the next round of the Champions League.
Final prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester City.
*All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com