While both Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique deploy similar tactics, free flowing passing football, the main battles will be concentrated in certain positions that would influence the end result, when Manchester City meet Barcelona on Wednesday.
Playing against Barca at Camp Nou might not be a great game to pick if one is trying to return to winning ways from a disappointing home league run, but Guardiola will none the less try to squeeze out a point from his former club.
With Barcelona lacking the physicality and aerial threats, which Manchester City have experienced against Everton and Tottenham, the game is expected to boil down to inch perfect passes and positioning.
Here are 3 key battles at both ends
Stopping the trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar
Guardiola’s three at the back with Stones at the centre and Clichy and Otamendi flanked, reflects his strategy of keeping the backline intact without any major movement on the opponent’s half. This could be effective against Barcelona, who rely heavily on the linkup play of Messi, Neymar and Suarez.
The trio are unlikely to pose any aerial or physical threat, hence, Guardiola will be specific instructions for his full backs to maintain the offside trap effectively and keep low to prevent many through balls
The threat of Aguero, Sterling, and Nolito/ Sane
It is a well-known fact that Barcelona have a weak backline, which is prone to mistakes at times as was shown in their humiliating 4-3 defeat to Celta Vigo. When City would come to all guns blazing with attacking players like David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne opening up passes for Aguero, speedy Sterling and Nolito on the break, Barcelona would have to avoid such baffling errors.
However, with Mascherano, Pique, and Mathieu at the back, Enrique has quite an experienced backline, who could read the game better. With Enrique too, not deploying flexible side backs, the penalty box is expected to be well guarded, pushing much of the attacks on to the flanks.
The battle in the middle
There is no doubt that the midfield will be the most critical of positions when two teams meet. While Barcelona, who has won 4 duels against City among the last occasions when they have met, it was quite clear that the Spanish side’s midfield was far superior to City’s.
Under Guardiola, however, that is expected to change. With Gundogan and Fernandinho both at the central defensive midfield, Barcelona won’t have only the flanks to worry about but also the long balls. Similarly, City will have to intercept the creativity of Iniesta, Rakitic, Turan, if the spearheading trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez were not havoc already.