Messi, Suarez & Iniesta Lead Re-Imagined Barca Back To The Top


Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba each gorged on 100 touches or more for Barcelona at the Etihad on Tuesday night. Only one Manchester City player got past 60 and his name was James Milner.

If you missed the game, there's a big hint there as to how it played out.

This was a re-imagined Barcelona as dominant and luxuriant as the old. Ever the footballing crusaders, they came armed with the jewel-encrusted blade that is Messi to splice through City's midfield and a mercenary's dagger in the form Luis Suarez to finish the job.

Neymar's expressive brush strokes paid compliment to both, while Iniesta reminded the world that 30 is a rather fine age for playmaker. Iniesta still a conductor of sublime powers and the current Barca around him look very much worthy of those powers.

Messi, as ever, rose above all others in a bright yellow shirt. Positioned deeper than we once expected to find him, the atomic flea broke lines at will and released countless exquisite passes that belonged in a frame. It's safe to say there's still some history to be written in those can-opening little feet of his.

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BARCELONA : News Photo

For an hour or more Luis Enrique's men overwhelmed City to such an extent the two teams could appeared from different tiers. Barca passes fizzed from flank to flank, Messi scythed past tackles at will and Suarez pounced on two chances like a ravenous leopard who'd spent the week in a tree.

At 2-0 down, the Premier League champions looked set for slaughter. The game was tilted so heavily in Barca's favour, with so little evidence that City could resist their advances, that you feared a Germany-Brazil moment was in the offing for Manuel Pellegrini and his team.

City toiled and tracked, but there was no denying Barca's path to goal. One journalist went so far as to announce on Twitter that Barcelona were hosting an opening training session. Another in the press box wrote of Spanish reporters comparing City with Real Madrid's opponents Schalke - and finding Schalke to be superior.

Barca coach Enrique will be rightly wondering how his team didn't finish the tie off before half-time. They should have, and it's a frightening thought to conceive what they might do to City at Camp Nou, or to another side later in the competition for that matter.

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BARCELONA : News Photo

READ: Miguel Delaney on City & Barca's Swaying Seasons

To make a case for City scoring twice and winning the tie in Barcelona is far from easy. Though they found a goal through Sergio Aguero and somehow emerged as narrow 2-1 losers, City were outmatched in every measurable department.

Naturally they missed Yaya Toure, but the Ivorian has little track record for dominating big games in Europe and it's no certainty he could have influenced proceedings at the Etihad had he been playing. This was not a heavyweight scrap consigned to the middle, but a fluid, fast-paced flurry where punches were hard to land.

Barca are just better than City and sometimes your opponent puts you in your place. It probably didn't help that Manuel Pellegrini went for two strikers, but had he played safe and the game finished 0-0 we would have been equally as critical. City were at home and it's surely an obscenely rich club's prerogative to attack on their own turf, whoever the opposition.

City will have no choice but to attack at Camp Nou now. The minimum ask is two goals and the minimum requirement from traveling City fans will be that their team shows more confidence and coherence than they did on a demoralising night for progress at City HQ.

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BARCELONA : News Photo

There's a sense among those City fans who were cynical to European football that the Champions League is on the cusp of winning them over. One big result could change everything and going to Barcelona to knock over Messi and co. would most certainly count in that category.

Can they do it? If Barca have the kind of off day they did against Malaga it's possible, but there's something about big Champions League nights and big Champions League players that tells us that's highly unlikely. To make it happen, City's only hope lies in match-winning heroics from Toure, Aguero and David Silva, and Joe Hart to put in the performance of his European career so far.

Even then, you've got Suarez, Messi and Neymar to deal with, and a Barcelona team who are on their way back to greatness again.

Either City need to get stronger, or they need more luck with their Champions League draws.

 

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