Barcelona Have the Advantage over Manchester City Despite Weekend Defeat

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014

FC Barcelona's coach Gerardo Tata Martino, from Argentina, attends a news conference at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in San Joan Despi, Spain, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. . FC Barcelona will play against Manchester City in a last sixteen Champions League soccer match on Wednesday March 12. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

It was a disappointing weekend for both teams, one which saw Barcelona and Manchester City surprisingly defeated. Individual results shouldn't be taken out of context, but the two teams are on the verge of a painful pattern forming.

Barcelona has won four out of their last nine league matches. When you consider they only dropped five points in their previous 18 games, it's a significant difference.

"From the start I noticed teams attacking us differently: they're getting to the edge of our area more, taking more shots," admits goalkeeper Victor Valdes to Sid Lowe of The Guardian. "It's not all one-on-ones ... and this has been a difficult year with all the off-the-pitch issues too."

There's a new sense of vulnerability about the Catalans, who had looked like they had turned a corner.

The natural defence of keeping possession for large periods will certainly make it hard for City to establish any momentum. “We have to control the game well," admits Cesc Fabregas to UEFA, via Football Espana. "We can’t make it a game of attack and defence every five minutes because that’s to their benefit."

“We have to control the game, keep the ball, and create opportunities as well as finish them off, and not let City counter," the midfielder continued.

Manchester City, on the other hand, were beaten by Wigan in the FA Cup for the second season running. It wasn't quite as humiliating as the Wembley showcase last year, but it was still a major blow.

Their three wins in the last seven matches (counting all competitions) isn't quite as alarming, though it becomes a little more disturbing when you consider that five of those matches were at the Etihad and one was at a neutral venue.

It was one defeat in 18 matches at home prior to this run, and the one was to European champions Bayern Munich.

"It’s a game we go into with a 2-0 deficit so it will be very difficult," said manager Manuel Pellegrini at a press conference, via Football Espana. He is suspended for the encounter after his post-match outburst in Manchester.

"We must react [Monday morning] with responsibility for what happened [against Wigan] but I’m very confident about what we can do in the future," the Chilean added.

Captain Vincent Kompany believes they can overcome the odds after previous experiences. "Football is made out of nights like this. It is why you play football," the Belgian told a press conference, via The Guardian.

"It is a tough ask but emotionally you won't really beat what we experienced on the day we beat QPR. If anything should give you belief about chasing lost causes, it should be that day."

The sentiment is of course correct, but beating a 10-man QPR at home isn't quite the same as winning by two clear goals at the home of Barcelona, even if the prize was greater in May 2012 for that individual tie.

Other players are drawing positives from Barca's struggles. "I think anything is possible in football," said Samir Nasri, via The Guardian. "I saw them this week against Valladolid [where Barcelona lost 1-0]. It just shows they are human."

The first leg with Manchester City felt like everything was coming together for Gerardo Martino's side. They then lost to Real Sociedad that weekend and now against Real Valladolid before the return fixture.

"I don't think the tie's over; 2-0 is a good result but not definitive, especially with the talent they have," assured Valdes.

Both teams are saying the right things. Barcelona are cautiously optimistic and careful not to get complacent, whilst City are talking up their chances and making the fans believe in the near impossible.

At the Camp Nou and with a two-away-goal advantage, there would be something of a mini-crisis in the local media should this result be overturned.