Oct 31, 2016
Oct 31, 2016

UCL game of the week: Manchester City vs. Barcelona

UCL game of the week: Manchester City vs. Barcelona
Pep Guardiola’s much-anticipated return to the Camp Nou was far from an enjoyable experience. After being dismantled by Lionel Messi and Barcelona two weeks ago, Manchester City now welcome the Catalans to the Etihad. Can Pep mastermind a victory over his former club? Read on to find out.

No one needed reminding of how important the game was when the two sides met on October 19. Less than ten minutes into the second half and the game, and most probably the battle for first place in the group, was all but over. Messi put Barcelona one up in the first half, but it was Claudio Bravo’s error and subsequent red card on 53 minutes that put the game out of City’s reach. 

The Manchester City goalkeeper- who recently joined from Barcelona - gifted the ball to Luis Suarez before using his hands to save the ball outside of the penalty area. Soon enough, Messi scored two more to complete his hat-trick. Neymar missed a penalty late on, only to make amends in the last minute and inflict a painful 4-0 defeat on Guardiola.

Barcelona have scored an average of three goals per game in La Liga, and an average of 4.33 goals per game in the UCL - they have also scored in 20 consecutive games.

The heavy defeat saw Manchester City’s outright Champions League winner odds at Pinnacle move from 9.510 to 10.980*, while Barcelona remain the favourites at 3.910*. 

Things didn’t exactly improve for City in the aftermath of the Barcelona defeat. They managed to scrape a draw against Southampton in the Premier League before succumbing to local rivals Manchester United in the EFL Cup. However, Saturday’s 4-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion will have helped restore some confidence.

Where is it going wrong for City?

One of the recurring themes that Pep’s masterful tactics have failed to negate is City’s troubles at the back. They have conceded nine goals in the EPL (an average of 0.9 goals per game) and seven in just UCL games (2.3 goals per game). 

They may have managed to get a clean sheet against WBA, but it was their first in eight games - something that will be a major cause for concern for Guardiola. 

The man who has so often held City’s defence together, Vincent Kompany, is still on the road to recovery which make City’s chances of shutting out the most lethal attack in world soccer look slim at best.

Barcelona have scored an average of three goals per game in La Liga, and a remarkable average of 4.33 goals per game in the UCL. The Spanish giants have also scored in 20 consecutive competitive games - Athletico Madrid were the last team to stop them scoring back in April for last year’s UCL quarter-final.

What can Guardiola do?

Stopping Barcelona isn’t as simple as stopping MSN - something that seems an impossible task in itself. It could be said that Pep’s attempt to contain his former club by overloading the midfield the last time they met wasn’t what caused them to concede four goals - it was Bravo’s mistake and the fact that City had to sacrifice the hardworking Nolito from midfield.

City certainly created chances at the Camp Nou, but by the time Messi slotted in his second, the game was as good as over. We will most likely see similar tactics employed by Guardiola this time around.

City managed to get a clean sheet against WBA, but it was their first in eight games - something that will be a major cause for concern for Guardiola.

He has indicated that Aguero will start at the Etihad, but the Argentine will have to move from his usual penalty area habitat and cover every blade of grass in the attacking third if Guardiola’s plan is to work. Kompany can give City a boost, but whether his manager wants to gamble on his fitness is another matter.

Providing City can keep all 11 men on the field, they will be in with a chance of getting something out of the game. With Barcelona priced at 2.450*, City’s potential home field advantage is something that has to be considered. While over 3 goals at 1.877* is a solid option, bettors might look to find value in the draw priced at 3.680*.

Get the best odds on Champions League betting at Pinnacle, the ultimate bookmaker with the lowest margins and highest limits.

*Odds subject to change

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