Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino is aware of the pressure that his team is under to succeed in the Champions League but also declared that tomorrow’s tie was a mouthwatering prospect for fans and offered his thoughts on tactics for the forthcoming game.
“For the last six seasons Barca has played in the Semi Finals of the Champions League. The fans are used to that and it will be difficult for them to understand if we don’t go through but this is the tightest tie of them all.
“This could have been a final. I would prefer to have met them later as both teams are doing well in the league and cups and it’s the perfect time for us to meet.
“City are very similar to us. They are not just a mini Barcelona. They are perhaps a little more direct but they are very good at possession of the ball and like to elaborate the play.
“They are one of the greatest teams in the world right now. They have great Spanish players like Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and David Silva – who has a good sense of tempo and knows when to cross and when to attack. It’s not just the Spanish players either, they also have players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho from all over the world.
“I really like Manchester City’s diversity. They have different forms of creating. They pass from the sides, from the back line, from inside to outside. They are good at set pieces and in the air and they have a lot of goalscorers.
“Obviously for us the solution is to keep a lot of the possession.
“We don’t need to prioritise defence or attack one way or another.
“We still want to be sensible here. With more strikers we will run more and with more midfielders we will have more possession.
“Possession is the key here. Plan A is to take the ball away from them. If we can’t then it’s pointless!
“The team with the least possession of the ball is the team that will suffer the most.”
Barcelona defender and ex-Manchester United player Gerard Pique agreed with his managers’ assessment.
Pique said: “We’re doing very well, we’re top of the league, we’re doing well in the Champions League. Man City have done very well too, I would say we are at the same level now.
“Alvaro Negredo’s been an exceptional player for City this season but we must also watch out for Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas – they can all score goals.
“We have to be very aware of set pieces and to defend those well and not give away free kicks.”
Martino will be grateful that City’s most lethal striker Sergio Aguero was ruled out having failed to recover from his hamstring injury although Fernandinho was declared fit to return for City.
“As a fan I am sorry that Aguero won’t be playing because he’s one of the best players in the world but as a coach he’s just one less problem.” said Martino.
Barcelona have injury worries of their own – Neymar had been out with an ankle injury but seems set to feature against City at some point.
“What’s important for us is to have him helping. He played 30 minutes against Rayo Vallecano the other day and we’ll see tomorrow if he starts.” said Martino.
Comparing City’s chase of an unprecedented quadruple this season to Barca’s own race for silverware this season, Martino played down the pressure on the team.
“I would be feeling the pressure more if we weren’t doing so well in the other two competitions. We’re in the final of the Copa Del Rey and we will fight to the end for the league so tomorrow’s game is just one competition.” he said.