• Spain's news in English

On-form Barça ready for star-studded Man City

AFP · 18 Feb 2014, 09:24

Published: 18 Feb 2014 09:24 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

After a run of one win in four Liga games, including a rare home defeat against Valencia, the Catalan giants have won their last two matches in emphatic style, scoring 10 goals in the process.

Following a 4-1 success at Sevilla last weekend, Saturday's 6-0 demolition of Rayo Vallecano further strengthened their position at the top of the table on goal difference from Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

The game featured a goal-scoring return from injury for Neymar, while the team's fourth goal, a dizzying passing move finished by Pedro Rodriguez, bore the hallmarks of Barcelona's Pep Guardiola-era pomp.

Guardiola is now at Bayern Munich, who demolished Barça 7-0 on aggregate in last season's Champions League semi-finals, but with his old side having also booked a King's Cup final berth by overcoming Real Sociedad, belief is building at Camp Nou.

"Now the best part of the season, where all the games are important, is upon us," captain Carles Puyol told Barça TV.

"We played a very good game (against Rayo), as we did against Real Sociedad, and the team has plenty of confidence heading into the tie.

"We are facing a very good team with great players, but Barcelona always believe in their own chances. We are in good form and it will be a very even tie."

City could scarcely have asked for more daunting opposition in what will be their first ever knockout game in the post-1992 Champions League era, but Manuel Pellegrini's side can also take heart from their weekend result.

After a run of two games without victory, the 2012 English champions produced a superb display at the Etihad to beat Chelsea 2-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The victory avenged a 1-0 loss to the same side in the Premier League 12 days earlier and goal-scorer Samir Nasri

believes it was ideal preparation for the visit of Barcelona.

"It is a massive game," said the French midfielder, who was making his first appearance after a five-week lay-off with knee ligament damage.

"Every player wants to play those kind of games -- Champions League, last 16, against Barcelona. The good thing is we are really strong. We have our confidence back.

"I think they are weaker than they were two years ago. I think it is going to be a tight game and an interesting game for everyone."

Nasri will hope that his second-half cameo against Chelsea convinces manager Pellegrini to hand him a starting berth, but he faces competition from Jesus Navas.

With James Milner suspended and Fernandinho a doubt with a thigh problem, Javi Garcia is in line to partner Yaya Toure in midfield, while top scorer Sergio Aguero is expected to miss out with a knee injury.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has the rare luxury of a fully fit squad to choose from.

Despite demonstrating his fitness in the romp against Rayo, Brazil superstar Neymar is expected to start on the bench, but Xavi is likely to come back into the side after being rested on Saturday.

Story continues below…

With Lionel Messi having amassed 10 goals in 11 games since his return to fitness in January, Pellegrini feels that reports of Barça's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

"Any coach would love to have the roster that Barça has," said the former Real Madrid and Malaga coach.

"Barça have 12 wonderful players. Messi, Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta, Neymar, Cesc (Fabregas), Pedro, they are full of great players.

"They have been leading the Primera Liga standings, they are alive in the Champions League, and they are in the final of the Copa del Rey."

The two teams have never previously met in a competitive fixture, but Barca provided the opposition when City opened their City of Manchester Stadium -- subsequently rechristened the Etihad Stadium -- in August 2003.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join The Local on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available