Lionel Messi says that Barcelona have evolved slightly since the departure of Pep Guardiola – the manager who will look to get the better of the Catalan club at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Luis Enrique’s Barca put on a clinical display to rout City 4-0 in the first meeting between these two sides a fortnight ago, and Messi admits that his side have changed since his former mentor left the club.
“In reality, the system of Barcelona is something that everyone knows,” Messi said. “I can say we are one of the few clubs that have it, but each boss has different things and applies them as he sees fit.
“We have not noticed massive changes but, yes, some – in that with Luis maybe now we are a bit more aggressive when we attack at speed, while with Pep we used counter-attack less.”
Barcelona are in control of Group C with three wins from three, while City face a tricky run-in with just four points from their opening three matches.
Manchester City are without the injured Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Fabian Delph. Willy Caballero starts in goal for City with Claudio Bravo suspended after he was sent off in the 4-0 defeat a fortnight ago. Sergio Aguero is expected to start for the home side.
Barcelona are without Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Aleix Vidal and Jeremy Mathieu, who was red carded a fortnight ago. Arda Turan is expected to feature for the visitors, who could also include Brazilian U-21 defender Marlon.
Pep Guardiola: “I think we know what we have to do to beat them and hopefully our quality up front will make a difference. We have to play in that way – like a final. It’s not a final for them, it is a final for us. There are just three games left and we dropped two points in Glasgow, so we have to recover those points in the next two games. We have to be focused for 90 minutes, knowing they are going to provoke mistakes because of the quality they have.”
Luis Enrique: “I expect the same kind of game. I don’t think they can be more aggressive in possession than last time. I am hoping for the same. I think both teams want the same thing – to have more of the ball and make the pitch as big as possible when they have it. If they leave spaces behind we will take advantage. It will be similar to the first game and I hope it’ll be a positive result for us. We will have to be as effective with and without the ball which isn’t easy against City who know how to close down space and not lose the ball when they have it.”
Barcelona and Manchester City are facing each other for the third time in the last four seasons of the Champions League.
Barcelona have won all five of their previous encounters with Manchester City; conceding only twice.
Manchester City suffered their heaviest-ever Champions League defeat conceding four goals for the first time when these sides met in the reverse fixture.
Pep Guardiola is facing Barcelona as manager for the second season of his career; as Bayern Munich boss, he was knocked out by the Catalan side in the semi-finals of the 2014/15 Champions League (3-5 on aggregate).
Manchester City are unbeaten in their last six Champions League home games (W4 D2). They’ve never gone seven consecutive games without a defeat at the Etihad in the competition.
Barcelona have won their last three away Champions League games against English clubs, two of which were against Manchester City.
Barcelona have scored in their last 20 away games in the Champions League group stages.
There have been five red cards shown across the five previous meetings between these sides; four of which being awarded to City players, only one of the five encounters has gone without seeing a red brandished.
Seven of Manchester City’s last 10 home Champions League goals have come in the 76th minute or later.
The last five goals recorded by Barcelona against City have seen the direct involvement of Lionel Messi (three goals and two assists).
Messi has scored six goals in this Champions League campaign so far; two more than anybody else despite featuring in only two matches and has scored 15 goals in his last 13 Champions League games against English opposition.
Neymar has recorded five assists already in this year’s competition; three more than any other player