Date: 16th March 2015 at 9:30am
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Following the dropping of 17 points from a possible 33 since the turn of the year, our Premier League season has descended perilously into becoming a battle for Champions League qualification against in-form rivals. All things considered, a win against Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 at the daunting Camp Nou is imperative. We go into the game 2-1 down from the first leg, and in all honesty our chances of progression are looking somewhat thin unless certain elements are moved around.

In the league we stand a miserable six points behind Chelski in the table with the London side having played a game less. After last season’s league and league cup double, we do sadly look set to finish this one empty-handed and somewhat miffed, I will say some of this has a bit to do with injuries and a lot to do with a reluctance to stray from a 4-4-2 formation. I feel that until we shake it up and surprise our opponents by occasionally changing tack the way we were forced to, striker-less towards the end of last year we will remain numerous points behind Jose Mourinho’s champions elect. If we don’t pull our socks up and Manuel Pellegrini fails to come up with a master plan, we could be in very real danger of going into the freefall that we have threatened on and off this season.

Looking directly at the Champions League situation, Joe Hart’s amazing penalty save from Lionel Messi in the first leg at the The Etihad kept us in the tie. It is still a difficult task and we need to score certainly two goals in the Camp Nou, but thanks to Joe we can at least go there with some hope.

There are however within The Engineer’s grasp obvious ways to improve our chances of moving through to the last eight of this competition for the first time!

Formation. One of which is addressing the extreme stubbornness surrounding MP’s bloody 4-4-2 formation from which he rarely deviates unless we have an injury crisis which I hasten to add we’ve thankfully seen less often of late.

Midfield. Going back to our Barca first leg battle, as we’ve witnessed regularly this season we were too open and as expected Barca picked us off one by one and dominated the midfield. My throat was sore after constantly screaming to flood the midfield but obviously that was to no avail. We cannot make the same mistake again in the Catalan stronghold. We obviously MUST take risks to get the two goals we need but starting the match too open would be foolish and could see the tie over before we even get a foothold in the game.

Pellegrini has to start with a five-man midfield and be prepared to make alterations to suit the match as it progresses. He has no other option! Look at Real Madrid against Schalke last week. When it wasn’t going to plan they were constantly subbing their players and not always at the dreaded 70 minutes stage which is what Pellegrini always seems to do. Come on MP…alternate!

If we start with a packed midfield on Wednesday night then that surely must leave room for Merlin Silva to play in his preferred No. 10 role, not consigned to the wing as he was at Burnley. Whilst he is filling that gap he can roam around freely and create passes in danger areas that can help win the game. He is without a shadow of a doubt our most gifted player and placing him in a central role in behind Kun Aguero allows the Canarian’s magical talent to shine through.

Jesus Navas also needs to be on the wing as an outlet whilst at the same time providing defensive duties otherwise Barca will dominate that side of the park. He played there in the first leg and I think he was brilliant. We could do with another winger of the same calibre as Navas.

YaYa Toure will return to our European midfield. We missed him in the first leg but now he is back from suspension and we need him in the throes of a packed midfield as opposed to the stretched isolation of a 2 man axis gasping for air. Players like Iniesta need to be blocked and their dictation of play halted abruptly. YaYa is most definitely an influential player and we need him and his presence more than ever on Wednesday.

And now finally a few words to the wise.

With our array of gifted, stellar players who are at the ages now where they should be at the peak of their powers we have to believe that we can go to Barca and win. Show no fear! City’s fans are heading for Spain in their thousands, some are already there and that loyalty and support deserves to be rewarded.

In English football City have dominated many a game for about 4 seasons and have made some sensational headlines. The platform has again been built for take off and we’ve all but thrown it away again the way we did in 2013.

The question to the City squad is this. Do you want to look back with regret or pride?

Pellegrini and the boys are you listening!?!?

 
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