As expected, Manchester City failed to overturn the first-leg deficit against Barcelona and are out of the Champions League for another year. A 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp saw them lose 4-1 on aggregate, with the sending off of Martin Demichelis in the first match the turning point of the tie.
Barcelona were the better side over the two legs and deservedly take their place in the draw for the last eight, but City can take some positives from their display at the Nou Camp. At no time were they overrun, even with their star striker, Sergio Aguero, a passenger for the majority of the first half after he tweaked a hamstring after just three minutes.
The performance of Vincent Kompany, in particular, will please Manuel Pellegrini and his staff, after he gave another in a long line of commanding displays. As a captain, there’s not much more the Belgian could do to justify his standing at the club.
If only the first leg had been played on even terms, it would have been a far better tie for neutrals to observe. Demichelis’ moment of madness cost City dearly—a trick he repeated in their FA Cup defeat at the weekend—and the undying faith shown in him by his manager must surely now be under question.
It has become quite clear as the season has progressed that City’s squad is not as strong as some believe, with a core of players relied on too heavily.
The positive for City is that core of players—Kompany, Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero—are outstanding, and with the right additions in the summer, particularly in defence, they will be in a strong position to compete aggressively in Europe next season.
The one silver lining in City’s defeat to Barcelona is the opportunity to focus fully on their Premier League campaign between now and May. They find themselves in a difficult situation—nine points behind Chelsea with three games in hand. If they win their games in hand, they will go top on goal difference, but the pressure that comes with trailing by such a distance will be a hindrance.
Without the distraction of European matches, City can now prepare meticulously for each league encounter, maximising their chances of overhauling Jose Mourinho’s side at the summit of the table. Chelsea are experts at winning ugly, with defensive excellence central to their form, and only if City are at their very best will they lift the trophy at the end of the season.
And returning to the summit and staying there is vital for Pellegrini after a week which has seen his side exit two competitions. The club’s principle objective this season was to regain their Premier League crown, and it now represents the only other major trophy he can add to the League Cup he secured a fortnight ago.
The performance at the Nou Camp suggests a bright future for City, and if they can take the positives from the game into the rest of their league campaign, they every chance of securing the title they outlined as a priority at the start of the season.
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_.