Wary Barcelona expecting backlash from Pep Guardiola

Luis Enrique admits Barcelona are expecting a backlash from their former manager Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side tonight.
Wary Barcelona expecting backlash from Pep Guardiola

Barca beat City 4-0 when they met in the first of their Champions League Group C encounters at the Camp Nou a fortnight ago but Enrique believes that scoreline flattered the Spanish champions.

The sides meet again at the Etihad Stadium this evening and Enrique is expecting a difficult night as he comes up against his old Barca and Spain team-mate Guardiola.

The 46-year-old said: “I expect the same type of game as the last one. That result really didn’t reflect the way the match went.

“I don’t think they can be any more aggressive in terms of pressure. They were pressing us up to the stand almost.

“I think Pep’s Man City have a lot of things going for them, they can do many things. I think you need to adapt to their football so you can press them.

“We know Pep and we know his ideas. We have to be very attentive to what they do because Pep will try to touch the correct key to get the result.

“We can be impressed by what he has done in three months at Manchester City. They are a team that go to play on any pitch in the world and try to get the ball. I love the philosophy, I love his ideas.

“He has had his impact and I am sure the team will get better and better with every month that goes by. I think the future for City is bright and attractive.”

Barca go into the game with a maximum nine points from three games and needing just a draw to secure a place in the knockout stages for a 13th successive year. They could even win the group with a victory if Borussia Monchengladbach fail to beat Celtic.

Enrique said: “It is a great opportunity for us to qualify here. Obviously it won’t be easy. We want to be first in the group, that is our objective, but to do that we will have to play at our top level.

“Whatever happens, there are still two match days left but we want to win here and finish first in the group.”

Barcelona are likely to come up against City’s top scorer Sergio Aguero this time after the Argentina striker was surprisingly named on the bench for the first encounter.

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic admits he is a man they fear.

He said: “We know Sergio Aguero is one of the best in the world. When he starts to score it is not good for the other teams. We hope his goals on Saturday will be the last for a few days.”

Guardiola has warned City they will need to keep their discipline to have a chance of beating Barcelona.

City have lost all five of their games against the Catalan giants in the past two-and-a-half years and had a man sent off in four of them.

The most recent was goalkeeper Claudio Bravo in City’s 4-0 loss in their first Champions League Group C meeting at the Nou Camp a fortnight ago.

Former Barcelona boss Guardiola, well aware of how ruthless his old club can be, knows they must avoid a repeat as the sides meet again at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said: “Yes, you have to learn. It’s always difficult to win Champions League games and it’s always difficult against Barcelona 11 v 11, but when it’s 10 v 11 it’s almost impossible.

“Sometimes (they were) unfair and last time it was from a mistake, but at that level it’s impossible to achieve your targets (without discipline).”

Guardiola could have been aiming his words at the player who joined him for pre-match media duties, Nolito.

The Spain forward was sent off against Bournemouth in September for aiming a headbutt at an opponent and was booked following a similar incident at West Brom on Saturday.

Asked about the matter, Nolito said: “I had no intention to hurt any other player but I have to show an example for children and other players. Hopefully it will not happen again.”

Bravo’s red card - following Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy in being sent off against Barca - means he is suspended for the return clash and Willy Caballero will take his place.

Caballero was preferred to Joe Hart in the early weeks of the season as City conducted the search for a better ball-playing keeper that led them to Bravo and Guardiola is confident he can deliver.

He said: “He’s helped me very much from the very first few games and I like him on a personal level.

“Every time he’s played he’s played well, he gives me a lot of confidence. If he plays well we’re happy. If he doesn’t we will try and help him but we have no doubts about him.”

After drawing with Celtic, the loss to Barcelona has left City in a fight for second place in the group with the Scottish champions and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Guardiola is aware of the importance of the fixture, but knows just how well City will need to play to get anything from it.

He said: “We have to play like a final. It’s not a final for them, it is a final for us. There are just three games left and we dropped two points in Glasgow, so we have to recover those points in the next two games.

“I have never entered a match thinking we can’t win but we have to play almost perfectly.”

Top scorer Sergio Aguero seems likely to start after being surprisingly left out at the Nou Camp in a tactical move to bolster the midfield that backfired.

Guardiola said: “I think we know what we have to do to beat them. They know us but hopefully our quality up front will make a difference.”

The Premier League leaders also go into the game with confidence restored having ended a six-match winless sequence with an emphatic 4-0 defeat of West Brom at the weekend.

“Winning the last game will help us a lot,” said Guardiola. “When you play a game having won the previous one the feeling is much better. We play the best tomorrow and we’re going to try to win.”

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