After a couple of seasons of heartache in the Champions League Group Stage, Manchester City managed to follow Bayern Munich through this time around but couldn't have asked for too many tougher Last 16 ties. Facing a team that has been at the pinnacle of European football over the last few years is going to be exciting for Manchester City who remained on course for an unprecedented quadruple with a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup Fifth Round on Saturday.
The side are also firmly in contention for the Premier League title and also play in the League Cup Final in England so confidence has to be in a decent place ahead of this game. Manchester City know this is probably the second best team to visit them this season after Bayern Munich who beat City 1-3 here, but they did beat Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow comfortably enough in front of their own fans and Manchester City have lost just 1 of 9 games here in the Champions League in the last two and half seasons.
Manchester City had failed to score in back to back games before the 2-0 win over Chelsea and that also got them back to winning ways at home having lost to the same side in the Premier League a couple of weeks ago. The side are now 18-0-2 at home in all competitions this season although Barcelona are as tough a test as you can face anywhere.
Fernandinho may make his return to the squad for this game, while Sergio Aguero is more doubtful.
Last season may have been a real eye-opening experience for Barcelona and their fans when the team was completely out-classed by Bayern Munich in the Semi Final of the Champions League. There does seem to be a shift in the philosophy of European teams in this competition and I don't think Barcelona are the benchmark any more, although they remain one of the top teams and favourites to win the European Cup.
Like Manchester City, Barcelona are still involved in every competition they have entered this season and remain the favourites to win La Liga despite sharing the lead with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The side have got a Copa Del Rey Final to compete in, but they have had a harder time on their travels in the Champions League. Barcelona have won 1 of their last 6 away games in the competition and they have lost half of those games.
Barcelona have only lost 1 of their last 18 games in all competitions and they have won 14 of those games including a morale boosting 6-0 victory against Rayo Vallecano over the weekend. They are unbeaten in their last 8 away games in all competitions, but they have only won 3 and drawn 3 of their last 6 on their travels.
Head to Head
This is the first meeting between Manchester City and Barcelona in a competitive fixture.
The winner of this tie will certainly feel the door is going to be open for a deep run in the Champions League simply because of the confidence it would give them to knock out a big rival for the title.
The home leg is going to be key for Manchester City who have been strong here all season and they will know taking a lead to the Nou Camp next month is imperative if they are going to be getting through to the Quarter Finals for the first time. Not having Sergio Aguero to their disposal is a big loss for City and I think that made a huge difference to their approach to recent games, although Manchester City looked a lot better on Saturday in their win over Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Manuel Pellegrini has to show he has learnt lessons from the dismantling at the hands of Bayern Munich, but Manchester City have been tough to play in front of their own fans in this competition and all this season.
I think it won't surprise anyone with the way Barcelona approach the game and they won't sit back and look to soak up pressure, but they do look a team that is vulnerable at the back and will give Manchester City chances. However, I also think the Catalan side can create chances against this City defence and it looks a fascinating game.
When the draw was made, I actually thought Manchester City were going to come through and the whole key to that is taking a lead to the Nou Camp next week. There is no reason to think that Manchester City should be such a big price with the way they have played at home this season, although I do think Aguero is a big miss. If Stevan Jovetic can offer something different up front and Samir Nasri is back to offer more creativity from the start along with David Silva, I believe Manchester City take a narrow lead to the Nou Camp for the second leg.