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“Decline”

It’s an exciting time in mid-February when the ultimate club competition, the Champions League comes about again and gives football fans across the globe something to get excited about. The penultimate tie this round of 16 is the Manchester City v Barcelona game. Two heavyweight titans going at it in a two legged round.

Its amusing football fans are so inclined into thinking Man City will dominate, citing the Bayern semi-final demolishing as a reference point. Even worse they may even bring up the fact Barcelona are going through a so called decline, with them not being favourites for this tournament for the first time since 2004.

Astonishing we bring up a decline when the Barca squad is practically the same as it was a few years ago. Sure a few veterans such as the lion heart captain Puyol and Xavi are playing more sporadically. This is in no form a decline. Barca is only a few acquisitions away from being favourites all over again. Furthermore do not undermine the fact Messi, Neymar and Busquets etc. are yet to even reach their peak.

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Ter Stegen is heavily linked so Valdes departure won’t be too significant. Barca definitely does need a centre back but Pique is as solid as ever. A Thiago Silva is needed, that would become the best centre back duo. Jordi Alba provides much needed width, especially as Neymar enjoys cutting inside. Plus we’ve yet to mention the brilliant youngsters coming through the Barca ranks such as Deulofeu, Sergio Roberto and Christian Tello.

Perhaps this might even be a positive thing. Against Bayern Munich, the game was grossly ill defined prior to the match with Jupp Heynckes deciding to play a counter attacking style and pressing aggressively on Barcas centre backs. Against Man City things will be much clearer, Barca will have to create space when Man City play narrow and counter attack.

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Nonetheless this isn’t a war of words against Man City. I do believe they have the right tools to beat Barca, with strength and pace all over the field. I’m particularly worried about the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva who are the perfect vices to break tackles and start counter attacks. Barca will have to be cautious about pace too. But with no element of surprise, Tata is surely in a better position to deal with this.

Also with Tatas style of football I do believe there’s an essence of unpredictability about Barca too. Valdes is more willing to hit it long balls up to the flanks, and the midfielders more willing to knock diagonals into Neymars path and with his pace and all round threat, he will certainly cause problems. Messi too, is always a problem, and with a few games under his belt – he is looking more and more like his old self.

So do not think a Bayern Munich type massacre will occur this Tuesday. Expect a cagey and tight game. Moreover even if Man City does triumph, it is certainly not the end of Barcas season as they lead the pack in a tight La Liga title race and have an El Clasico Copa del Rey final. That is certainly not a decline in my eyes.

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