Buoyant Barcelona Will Use CL Win over Manchester City to Spur Them on

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2014

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Lionel Messi (L) of FC Barcelona lines up a free kick with Xavi Hernandez during the La Liga match between Real Valladolid CF and FC Barcelona at estadio Nuevo Jose Zorillo on March 8, 2014 in Valladolid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Barcelona's disappointing week took a turn for the better with the win over Manchester City on Wednesday evening. They may have held a considerable advantage, but there was a seed of doubt after recent results and performances.

It was a controlled display, and although a number of big refereeing decisions didn't go their way in the first half, they didn't panic and just stuck to the task in hand.

Manchester City will have their own grievances with the officials but privately are likely to accept that they are still a couple of notches below the Catalans.

The message was clear from Barcelona after the match: If we support Gerardo "Tata" Martino and if we stick together, anything is possible.

"Do I support Martino? I’m not even going to dignify that with a response," replied Xavi to a daft question in the mixed zone, via Football Espana. "The tactics depend on the game. The Coach is the one who decides and we played very well."

Dani Alves also believes in a united front, again as per Football Espana: "When we’re all together it’s difficult to beat us here. That connection makes us stronger."

The Brazilian doesn't think there's a lack of fight within the squad: "We defend this shirt with dignity and honour and want to do the best we can. We have good days and bad days."

That unity was evident within the style and not just due to the result. It certainly helps when Lionel Messi is improving with every game and moving some way back to his very best.

Speaking to Catalan paper Sport, via Football Espana, Messi said:

We had two very serious setbacks [against Real Sociedad and Real Valladolid] with critics of the way we play and our image.

Today we became the club people want and we expect to be. We know when we don’t do things right. We’re the first to criticise ourselves and we’re not beyond criticism.

His comments show an awareness of the difference in the way Martino's team has played at times this season, and that they do take note of the analysts and supporters who have shown their discontent.

It's these types of spectacles that put Barcelona in good standing to finish the season. It wasn't a formidable performance, but they never looked like losing against a top side and in a tricky tie.

Xavi told the official UEFA website:

City had chances to score, we had lots of opportunities too and we went all out to attack because we truly don't know another way of playing.

This was the 'good' version of Barça and while it's obvious that you can always improve, there were moments tonight when we were really flying.

Matches such as this give Martino not only the confidence for the future but the ammunition to fire back at his critics. Providing they can win the biggest trophies available, it's these results that will define his legacy and not those against Real Valladolid.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 12:  (L-R) Ruben Cousillas the Manchester City assistant coach and Gerardo Martino the Barcelona manager direct their players during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City
David Ramos/Getty Images

Sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta believes that Martino has overcome a difficult period. "The Coach has worked very well and has managed the team’s defeat against Valladolid," the former goalkeeper told AS, via Football Espana.

"We have played a very good game. We were against a great opponent, who has a lot of talents, and wanted to have the ball but we have controlled every facet of the game," added Zubizarreta.

Martino knows that with two meetings with Real Madrid in the space of a month and the quarter-finals of the Champions League that there will be further tests of his team.

"After playing City and gone through 4-1 it shows we can do it against whoever we get," concluded Martino, via Football Espana.