Suddenly, City could be chasing the knockout rounds from third place with another loss to Barcelona. Luckily, they've had their pesky "crisis" brushed aside as Pep ended his record six match winless streak with a confident 4-0 win over West Brom this weekend to remain top in the EPL. Sergio Aguero appeared to shake his slump as well, scoring a brace. Barring another confounding, silly red card from City, you wouldn't expect a Messi hat-trick repeat of the first match between these sides. Luckily for City, Barcelona struggled to create chances over the weekend at Nou Camp, managing only a 1-0 win over Granada. Each side would relish three points for opposite reasons - Barca could clinch qualification into the knockout rounds and City need it to avoid embarrassment. Expect Pep's men to put up a much stronger fight at the Etihad. Another must-watch affair.
While City have blossomed into one of the top teams in England, European glory has continued to be frustratingly out of their grasp. To that end, the Citizens finally got their man, Pep Guardiola. His mandate is clear - win Manchester City’s first ever Champions League trophy. Pep has made his mark early - banishing Joe Hart to Turin in favor of Claudio Bravo, calling in midfield reinforcements from the Bundesliga in İlkay Gündoğan and Leroy Sane, and strengthening in attack with Nolito. If Sergio Aguero can remain healthy, there can be no excuses for not making a confident run toward the final this year.
With the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar up front, Barcelona are automatic contenders for the Champions League. Last season, they managed a domestic double, but lost 3-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals to eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid. Their starting eleven will be largely the same, bolstered by centerback Samuel Umtiti, who starred for France at the Euros and a few other up-and-comers to fill out the squad. After satiating their appetite for domestic silverware and watching two league rivals face off in last year’s final, expect La Blaugrana to make winning the Champions League priority number one. Plus, after a season of playing in sacrilegious horizontal stripes, they’re back to their traditional vertical.
Had the best goals-per-minute ratio in the EPL last season.
The unheralded midfielder is crucial in breaking up attacks box-to-box.