FC Barcelona (+127) at Manchester City (+197), Draw (+252)
Going into the Nou Camp and coming away with points is never easy, and Man City (1-1-1, 4 pts) were big underdogs last week when they visited Barcelona (3-0-0, 9 pts) in the third fixture of this Champions League season. But Pep Guardiola had to be hoping for more than what he got from his new team, which was basted like a Thanksgiving turkey by his former club (4-0).
City will have an immediate chance to re-assert themselves as a title hopeful next Tuesday (Nov. 1) when they host the Catalans at Etihad Stadium (2:45 PM Eastern).
Barcelona’s thrashing of City kept them perfect through three fixtures. They now have the best goal-differential in the tournament at +12 (13 goals for, one goal against). They’ve only played one away match so far, downing Monchengladbach 2-1 in Germany.
In general, City have the talent on their roster to compete with Barcelona on a game-to-game basis. Striker Sergio Aguero, defenders Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, and midfielders Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, and David Silva give them world-class skill on every line.
But Lio Messi proved last time out that there’s a difference between “world-class skill” and, well, Lio Messi. The “Little Wizard” was anything but small, registering a hat-trick to take over the tournament scoring lead (six goals). Neymar salted the game away with the team’s fourth goal in the 89th minute.
With the loss, the Citizens are now just one point up on Monchengladbach for the all-important second spot in Group C. (Only the top-two teams qualify for the knockout stage.) With the Germans facing last-place Celtic in the next fixture, City could find themselves temporarily out of a knockout stage berth for the time being unless they get a result against Barca.
While City will have the advantage of playing at Etihad, that’s not something which will daunt the Catalans; Barcelona visited Manchester City in each of the last two years and came away with wins both times.
Thanks to a perfect 3-0 start – and the fact that City left points on the board when they faced Celtic – Barcelona have all-but sewn up first-place in the group, ensuring themselves of an easier draw in the next round. That could mean we see a less motivated Barca side. Meanwhile, City know that a home loss would be a massive setback to their advancement hopes. I see Guardiola’s side playing a little more conservatively than usual (despite what the manager may say), trying to gain at least a point. That makes the draw the best value.
Photo credit: Basc catala (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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