How Manchester City Can Achieve The Impossible vs Barcelona


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  • Manchester City will look to achieve the impossible and exploit the lifeline handed to them by Lionel Messi’s missed penalty in the 94’ minute of their first leg.

    To advance to the Champions League Quarterfinals they must score at least two more goals than Barcelona, while achieving a 2-1 victory, after 90 minutes will send the match to extra time.

    However, adjustments must be made to a side that left the Etihad Stadium lucky to even have a fighting chance.

    Add a Third Central Midfielder

    The most egregious decision of Manuel Pelligrini, City’s manager, against Barcelona was to play a formation with two strikers in an attempt to attack Barcelona’s back line.

    Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have both reached Champions League finals — overcoming possession-oriented sides — by defending with a 4-4-2 defensive shape with both forwards dropping deep into central midfield negating the space and freedom of their opposition’s deepest central midfielder.

    However, City’s deepest forward, Edin Dzeko, failed to mark Sergio Busquets, Barcelona’s deepest central midfielder, allowing Busquets to complete 69 of 73 attempted passes, effectively overwhelming Manchester City’s double pivot of Fernando and James Milner, along with the central positioning of Messi.

    Switching formations from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 and pairing the now-available Yaya Toure with Fernando will allow City to better compete against Barcelona’s central buildup by interlocking both teams’ central midfields and denying space to all of Barcelona’s central midfielders.

    This would hopefully inhibit Barcelona’s buildup by countering their technical but lightweight central midfielders with the physical double pivot of Toure and Fernando, forcing Barcelona’s dangerous creative players, Messi and Iniesta, to drop deep out of dangerous positions to find time and space on the ball, limiting Barcelona’s scoring opportunities.

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  • Milner to the Left Wing

    In the first leg, Pelligrini played David Silva and Samir Nasri, two inverted and low energy ball playing wingers, on both flanks.

    While this would allow Manchester City the opportunity to compete in central midfield, it freed Barcelona’s attacking fullbacks, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba, to attack and provide width for Barcelona’s attacks, and also took away the best means to attack Barcelona, on the counter in the space behind their advanced fullbacks.

    With a formation change to a 4-2-3-1, the workmanlike and athletic James Milner would be pushed to the left wing where he can overpower the dangerous, but languid Barcelona right back Dani Alves.

    Milner will offer City two benefits. First he will press Alves, restricting the attacking freedom that Barcelona needs him to provide in an attempt to stretch opposition defenses and allow their central attackers more space to create.

    Secondly, he can exploit the space provided by the attacking forays of Alves, who tends to turn off defensively and struggles to regain the space that he has afforded to counter-attacking wingers.

    On City’s opposite flank, if they were facing Barcelona on an even playing field, the direct and athletic Jesus Navas would be an obvious starter. However, in a match where City must create scoring opportunities the more attack minded Samir Nasri, who can combine and create with central attacking midfielder Silva, is the better option.

    “Sergio Aguero, City’s likely starting center forward, must produce the play from earlier in the season which had many labeling him one of the elite forwards in world football…”

    Aguero Must be Clinical

     Sergio Aguero, City’s likely starting center forward, must produce the play from earlier in the season which had many labeling him one of the elite forwards in world football.

    With Barcelona playing a high line and retaining possession of the ball in advanced areas, Aguero must use his anticipation and quickness to exploit Barcelona’s central defensive pairing that will not include Javier Masherano, Barcelona’s usual central defense partner for Pique, who will be pushed forward to replace the injured Busquets at holding midfielder.

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    Aguero must attack this partnership and the high defensive line. He must also take full advantage of any scoring opportunities that are given to him on the counter attack.

    It is very unlikely that Manchester City will overcome Barcelona on their home ground, in what could potentially be the most famous night in the history of the club.

    However, playing a three-man central midfield and pressing Alves will restrict the attacking freedom that Barcelona was provided in the opening leg.

    Aguero must replicate the goals he has scored against Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the first leg while receiving service from Milner, Silva, and Nasri, with the rest of City’s defenders having to take defensive positions to keep Barcelona from scoring and solidifying their victory.

    Next: Chelsea vs PSG: Thoughts And Prediction