It's difficult to not over-hype this match. Pep returns to Catalonia. The EPL leaders visit Barca. Two of the world's most eye-pleasing sides face-off. After managing only a draw away at Celtic, Guardiola has stated he has no intentions of settling for another at Nou Camp, "I have never thought about the next game thinking a draw would be a good result." And yet, that's exactly what happened over the weekend as Everton held them 1-1 after two penalties were saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. While it makes it three consecutive winless matches, City are fully capable of leaving Nou Camp with three points. At Barcelona, Messi is back from injury and scored within three minutes of his return. Their 4-0 win over the weekend indicated that things are back to normal, even though they still sit in fourth in La Liga. A truly can't-miss matchup that could indicate whether City are finally ready for European dominance.
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.
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.
Averages nearly a goal per game for Blaugrana.
Scored 40 goals in 35 appearances last season on his way to winning the European Golden Shoe.