Manchester City face an uphill battle to progress in the Champions League. They face Barcelona on Wednesday, down 2-0 from the first leg, with their hopes of a last-eight place firmly in the balance. They need to win by two clear goals to at least take the game into extra time, a scenario most observers feel is unlikely given Barcelona's brilliance in front of their own fans.
Stranger things have happened, though, and City only need to cast their mind back to December when a largely second-string side went to Bayern Munich and won, 3-2. Much like this week's game at the Nou Camp, little was expected of City that night, and there was a marvelous freedom to their play that proved too much for the German champions, who are currently on a 16-match winning streak in the Bundesliga.
City's best player that night was David Silva, and he will be key to any success against Gerardo "Tata" Martino's side. Silva makes City tick, with his ability to float effortlessly around the pitch—orchestrating attacks and dictating play—central to his side's most impressive moments.
Whereas most players have a very particular remit, Silva is encouraged to roam, such is his capability to hurt the opposition across the final third. The City players only ever really loan the ball from him, instantly looking to return it so he can inflict further damage.
He was superb in Allianz Arena and in the first leg against Barcelona, both times operating centrally just off a lone front man, a tactic City may employ again at the Nou Camp. It's a position Silva likes. He can do more damage when starting from a central position, rather than coming in off the left-hand side.
Regardless of his position, he is always City's most important attacking player. Sergio Aguero, quite rightly, takes many of the plaudits because of his superb goalscoring ability, but even he would admit that it's Silva who more often determines City's results.
His ability to keep possession, no matter how tight the space, is his finest asset. With City needing to see as much of the ball as possible against a side famed for the ability to keep it, that part of his game will be critical on Wednesday.
Technically excellent and with wonderful intelligence, it's hard to think of a better player to wear the Blues shirt in the last 20 years. With his side up against one of the best teams in the world, his contribution, now more than ever, needs to be telling.
If Barcelona stop Silva, they will stop City's supply line. If he manages to find the kind of space he needs to pick passes and create angles, who knows? An unlikely result may be on the cards.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.
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