Manuel Pellegrini believes that Barcelona will be fearful after drawing his Manchester City side in the final 16 of the UEFA Champions League, suggesting that the Catalan side are no longer the supreme force they used to be.
Speaking to the media after this morning’s draw, the City boss warned: ‘I think Barcelona will be very concerned that they have drawn us. They are not the team of two years ago.’
Barcelona progressed comfortably through to the knockout stages of the competition and they are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga, yet many observers feel that this Barcelona side peaked under Pep Guardiola around 2011, with their triumph over Manchester United at Wembley one of the most complete performances witnessed in the modern era.
Since then, Barcelona have failed to reach the final in both of the last two seasons, having been knocked out by Chelsea in 2012 before being demolished 7-0 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in last season’s semi-finals.
Barcelona are also under new management this season, with Tata Martino sampling his first experience of Europe’s elite competition, while star player Lionel Messi has been blighted by injury.
By contrast, Manchester City have roared into form in recent weeks, defeating Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena and hitting Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal for six in the Barclays Premier League.
They have now scored more league goals – 47 – than any side in the elite division of the English, Spanish, German, Italian and French leagues, while only Real Madrid netted more than the eighteen goals City struck in the group stage of the competition.
And Pellegrini thinks it is time that City were taken more seriously: ‘Winning against Bayern gave us a lot of confidence. To play against Bayern was a very big test for what we can do in the future.
‘There were many critics after we played here against Bayern Munich at home here (lost 3-1), they said that we had nothing to do in Europe.
‘Maybe the same critics have now changed because last week, they were then saying how we should have scored four against Bayern. That shows the improvement.
‘I think it will be a beautiful game [against Barcelona]. Two very good teams and we will see in February which team arrives at the best moment.’
City’s Spanish quartet will not underestimate Barcelona despite talk of the 2011 European Cup winners being a shadow of their former selves.
David Silva told Marca: ‘There is a lot of talk about them at the moment but they are first in everything.
‘People say they are not playing well but they are top in Spain and they topped their group. I would like us to be in their situation.’
Silva’s thoughts were echoed by Jesus Navas speaking ahead of Monday’s draw which paired the two teams.
He said: ‘Barcelona have players of enormous quality and you can never doubt them.’
Danger: Barca will have to be wary of the talents of David Silva (left) and Alvaro Negredo
But City striker Alvaro Negredo gave Manuel Pellegrini’s team hope saying: ‘Their rivals know them better now. They study the way they play and they don’t allow them to play the way they like to play.’
Messi has been out of action for the last two weeks but will be back for the last-16 games. In his absence Brazilian striker Neymar has scored five goals in his last two matches.
Jesus Navas said: ‘We faced him in the Confederations Cup and he showed what a player he is.
Negredo added: ‘It is not easy to adapt to a new league when he does he is going to be one of the best players in the world.
Javi Garcia added: ‘Messi will be back by the time the games are played and he will want to do well in the run-up to the World Cup. That’s why it is best we don’t face them.’
The Nyon draw has brought City and Barcelona together however and it will also be a return to Barcelona for directors Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano.
Barca director of football Andoni Zubizarreta said: ‘Going up against Yaya Toure again and Txiki Begiristain means the game has absolutely everything.
‘For a long time if you thought about a big European game in Manchester you would always think United but not anymore.’
City was the draw Barcelona dreaded as reflected in one more paper in the city that simply said: ‘City, No’, but Zubizarreta recognised that the team who have won the Champions League three times in the last 10 years were also the ones everyone wanted to avoid. ‘City will also have not wanted to draw us,’ he said.
Source : Daily mail