Manchester City and Barcelona will do battle in the last 16 for the second successive season on Tuesday with the current English champions looking to secure a first leg advantage as Ladbrokes enhance the prices on both sides to 6/1 or 10/1 respectively.
While City are looking to make history and reach the quarter-finals for the first time, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has eased the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini by insisting neither side is the favourite to advance.
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“I don’t think there is a favourite,” said Enrique, ahead of Tuesday’s first leg at Etihad Stadium. “It is dangerous to speak of favourites in the Champions League – you have to demonstrate yourself on the field.”
While Enrique is down playing the favourite tag, he would appear he is doing so with good reason. While the club beat City 4-1 over the two legs last season, they will head into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga.
While the result left them four points off leaders Real Madrid, the manager also had to contend with the media attention that followed the appearance of Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique at a Casino hours before the flight to Manchester.
While the coach played down the incident, it only serve to fuel the fire that Messi and Enrique don’t see eye to eye.
Regardless of relationships, Messi will be the key man for Barcelona the Etihad. Even more so with City missing their own talisman, Yaya Toure.
The Ivory Coast star is suspended for the game. The midfielder is a key man for Pellegrini, and while he may not be operating at the same levels as last campaign, there is no denying that City are a better team when he is in the side, a point was acknowledged by Pique.
“He is a very important player for them,” said the defender. “When he was at Barça, he makes us very [strong] in defence. When he plays and when he doesn’t there is a difference when he isn’t there. We have to focus on playing our game, have the ball, have control and try and play on the counter and control any counters they have.”