Tuesday Team Talk: Strike duo Aguero and Negredo key to keeping Manchester City’s treble dream alive

Manchester City will take to the pitch on one of the most feared grounds in world football tomorrow as they look to keep alive their faint hopes of a club-first treble this season.

Barcelona dealt a hammer blow with just seconds remaining at the Etihad, as Daniel Alves struck late to give the Catalan side a 2-0 advantage ahead of the return leg in the last-16 clash of the Champions League.

Worse was to follow for City at the weekend, when they were unexpectedly stunned 2-1 by Championship side Wigan in the FA Cup. However, the Barcelona result was when it all started to go a little wrong for Manuel Pellegrini free-flowing goal-scoring machine.

For 53 minutes, City coped well with the ever-threatening Barcelona – managing to contain their visitors to several long-range efforts in the opening period.

However, true to the tiki-taka style they are renowned for, Barcelona remained patient and it was an exquisite through-ball from Andres Iniesta to release Lionel Messi that proved to be the turning point.

The four-time Ballon d’Or winner latched onto the pass with only Martin Demichelis to beat, and the rest, as they say, is history.

City suffered a double blow as Demichelis saw a straight red for his lumbering challenge and Messi duly dusted himself down to dispatch the spot-kick and set Barcelona on their way.

Now they face the daunting task of scoring three times at the Camp Nou, while hoping to subdue a 96,000-strong crowd and one of the most prolific teams ever to grace a football pitch.

It is by no means an impossible feat, as Bayern Munich proved at the semi-final stage of last year’s competition when they destroyed a depleted Barca side 3-0 in the Catalonian capital.

But Barcelona have been typically formidable at home in La Liga this season – topping the home form league with 12 wins from 13.

They have, in fact, lost just three times at the Camp Nou in all competitions since April 2012.

City saw just 32% of possession at the Etihad, and the Sky Blues will inevitably have to endure prolonged spells of tomorrow’s game without the ball.

But with key players such as Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri available, City cannot be discounted, and Barcelona will be well aware of the threat City pose.

The key to the game, however, falls at the feet of Alvaro Negredo and fit-again Sergio Aguero – both of whom also have plenty of experience of playing as competitive opponents at the Camp Nou with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid respectively.

If the strike duo hit top gear, there are few better who could provide Pellegrini with the necessary power and guile to overcome Barcelona’s stern centre-back pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.

City crashed out of the FA Cup on Sunday to dash hopes of an unprecedented quadruple, but Pellegrini is expected to recall Vincent Kompany, James Milner, Joe Hart and David Silva to the starting line-up tomorrow.

City fans will hope the shock defeat to Wigan could prove to be the catalyst to overcome the mammoth task in hand, but will need to catch the four-time European champions cold if they stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

This week might just be their best chance after Barcelona lost 1-0 away at Real Valladolid on Saturday to register a second loss in three games.

Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.

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