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Champions League: Yaya Toure a huge miss when Manchester City host Barcelona

23 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Champions League: Yaya Toure a huge miss when Manchester City host Barcelona

The Ivorian made a winning return for the Blues at the weekend but serves a suspension at the Etihad

Rarely can two clubs have prepared for a game with more contrasting performances.

Manchester City warmed up for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash with Barcelona with a sumptuous display against Newcastle United, racking up five goals to secure maximum points at the Etihad.

After a shaky spell that allowed Chelsea to pull away in the title race, City appeared to be right back in the groove, full of confidence and ideas in attacking areas. With David Silva and Sergio Aguero combining to brilliant effect and Edin Dzeko back among the goals after a barren spell, the Blues will be hopeful of testing a Barça backline that has not always been the most convincing.

That was certainly true on Saturday, when the Catalan giants slumped to a home defeat to Malaga. Luis Enrique named a strong line-up for that game – Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi all started – but some sleepy defending from Dani Alves allowed Juanmi to nip in and score the only goal of the game at the Camp Nou. The Brazilian, who has yet to sign a new deal at the club, will need to be far more alert in midweek.

That result aside, Barcelona have been upwardly mobile since the turn of the year, the apparent rift between Messi and Enrique forgotten in a blizzard of goals and wins. The Blaugrana will also remember their last trip to the Etihad fondly: they picked up a 2-0 victory in Manchester a year ago, putting them on course for a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win. 

City’s chances will not be helped by the absence of Yaya Toure through suspension. City’s form faltered when the central midfielder was away playing for the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations and his return to the side this weekend gave Manuel Pellegrini’s side a far more balanced look. He provides the physical counterpoint to City’s range of nimble, zippy schemers and without him, City have lacked something in central areas.

Both Fernando and Fernandinho are capable players in midfield, but do not seem to complement each other especially well. The latter will be charged with getting forward to help the attackers but rarely musters the same barrelling momentum that defines Toure’s game. James Milner could be a useful option in the engine room having shaken off a knock.

If Silva and Aguero are on song, it is hard not to see City finding the target on Tuesday night, even without Toure. The real challenge, though, will be stopping Barcelona scoring an away goal that would hand them the advantage ahead of the return leg.

9/1 – Manchester City to win and Sergio Aguero to score first