No need to fear City

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 18: Lionel Messi of Barcelona breaks past Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Manchester City at Camp Nou on March 18, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Here’s the thing. Even if Barcelona didn’t already beat Manchester City two years ago with basically the same exact team they have now, and even if they hadn’t beaten Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team in the Champions League, there’s no reason to worry. Because they did, and they will again. There’s no reason to fear City.

Entertaining narratives aside, Barcelona have improved a lot since their 2014/15 Champions League win. MSN are looking even more dangerous than they looked then, they have reinforcements for the bench, and their coach, Luis Enrique, is more experienced. They’ve started the season in dramatic fashion, beating Real Betis 6-2 off a Luis Suarez hat-trick. Their new signings have been surprisingly better than expected, adapted faster than expected, and their chances in the league are looking good. Then came the Champions League group draw on the 25th. Every Barça fan at this point knows they’ve drawn Manchester City, and surprisingly, people are worried about it and nervous. Not every Barça fan, but many.

A big reason why is that Pep is a great coach. He won the treble back in 2009. He won fourteen trophies in four seasons for Barcelona. They’re right, for the most part, these worried fans. He is a heck of a coach. But they might not be giving enough credit to the coach we have right now.

Luis Enrique has enjoyed success as manager of Barcelona on a level on par with Pep. He’s won 7 trophies in two years, the same as Pep did, and he’s going to get 100 wins as manager at a faster rate than Guardiola.
Despite his success, he’s had many detractors. Johan Cruyff said it would be “impossible” for Lionel Messi and Neymar to play together under him, and he’s shown that to be false. His leadership has allowed the team to click. People say he only wins because he has MSN. To those people: Pep had prime Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, along with Messi, Thierry Henry, and Samuel Eto’o at one point. He also had one of the most stacked teams in recent years in Bayern Munich (with Thomas Müller, Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, and Manuel Neuer) and lost in the semifinals of the CL to Barcelona led by – guess who – Luis Enrique.

Is Luis Enrique a better coach than Pep? Probably not – Pep was revolutionary in his style of play, and it’s true that Enrique could never have done what he has without Pep’s influence first. Just don’t underestimate Lucho while overestimating Pep.

But that’s only a part of the worry. City is a good team, and it’s true, anything can happen in a game of football. But there’s precedence against City, and there’s no reason to think there’ll be any significant difference this year.
There are 17 holdovers from the 2014/15 season when Barça won the tie 3-1, (Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandr Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri, Willy Caballero, Gael Clichy, Nicolás Otamendi, Wilfried Bony, Eliaquim Mangala, Jesús Navas, and Fernando) and a quick glance shows that these are all players that have played significant minutes for City. Joe Hart would also be in the list if his situation wasn’t so unclear at the moment.

Likewise, Barça still have Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Ivan Rakitić, Marc-andré ter Stegen, Gerard Piqué… need I go on? The teams are essentially the same as before. That is, the starters are almost the same. One thing Barça have now is depth, something they didn’t have to the same extent then. If Barcelona beat Man City, and Barcelona are now better, shouldn’t Barcelona beat Man City more comfortably now?

Another important element is form going into the tie. Barcelona have been very impressive so far this season, even without Neymar, who was in Brazil for the Olympics, and Iniesta and Javier Mascherano, who both missed the first game of La Liga with injury. This is where the new signings come in again, supplying depth so that even when we’re missing key players Barça can keep playing at a high level. We’ve seen a Barça team that’s made an early case for being the best team in Europe.

One last point here: It’s the group stage, not the final. What’s important is that Barça advance. Looking at the group, it’s hard to imagine a situation where they don’t advance, regardless of what happens against City. City are a worthy opponent that should be taken seriously. We shouldn’t act as if we have these games in the bag and we’re guaranteed to win. But do we really need to worry?

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  • Papa Doc

    Lucho had an opportunity to show his technical skills and management during the dip in form of Messi and Suarez, he failed miserable, we nearly lost the league, dumped out of CL. it was messi regaining his form which won us the league.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      How did he perform when messi out injured? Excellent I would say. A half fit and uninterested messi is still better than any player in that position. Lucho can’t keep him on the bench. Messi is instrumental to our success but he isn’t the only reason cos we went 8 games without him and won 7 of those including the classico. Tata had messi and didnt win a tea cup let alone trophy. I keep saying it, no great general can win a war without brave soldiers. No coach in the world can do anything extraordinary if his players begin to misfire. Patience and encouragement and the right motivation is all you can administer as a coach when that happens and lucho did just that

  • Eivind Niclasen

    Lucho has a task on his hands tonight. After nearly 20 minutes, Bilbao is controlling everything at the San Mamés. A poor game by Barca so far.

  • Andiko Putro

    So Undiano Mallenco & Lahoz for back to back, wow, RFEF really want Madrid to won the league as early as possible.

    • Eivind Niclasen

      It´s the usual state of things in Spain, but we are 1-0 up despite a poor performance by especially Busquets and Messi.

  • Victor Gusila

    Mateu Lahoz is superhuman! No mere human can see a foul with the back of his head, especially a foul that wasn’t there.

  • Victor Gusila

    A win at the San Mames, early in the season, without Neymar and Iniesta? I’ll take it.

  • Eivind Niclasen

    A piss poor and chaotic game from beginning to end, but I´ll happily take the three points.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      You really expect all games to be as rosy as our first don’t you? I don’t expect anything less than a rough against a team that presses down to our goal keeper. Should have ended atleast 4-0 if arda, suarez and messi took their chances. That still won’t make it a pretty performance on a general scale

  • yaofengchen

    I did not watch the match at San Mames. For the first time I am without Bein Sport or Futbol TV I have to settle for EPL and Bundasliga for the weekend. After watching a supposedly fantastic display of Man City destroying West Ham I could not but feel how spoiled we are as Barca fans. A 1:0 win is not good enough. Anything less than 65% possession we won’t be happy. Any match in which neither MSN scored is subpar. That’s what we are.

    Just imagine you lose your FC Barca match broadcast and have to settle for EPL.

  • Ahmad Khattab

    Hi.. I will be in Barcelona during the week of Champions league game against Man City.. I wanted to buy tickets but its not available on official website, which 3rd party vendors can I trust.

    for all other games, stadium map opens for buying ticket however for this game, I get this.

    • Igor Zivkovic is solid