Date: 21st March 2015 at 8:13am
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VMC’s roving young reporter City Jake checks in with an account of his Catalonian travels with The Blues this past week…

This is Jake Elsworth, Junior Blue, a 16 year old devout Manchester City football fan just returned from Manchester Airport having been given the amazing opportunity of a lifetime to go and watch Manchester City compete in the last 16 of the Champion’s League on Wednesday night at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

I attended the home leg at the Etihad in my usual front row seat of the east stand, and watched a fantastic display of fast pace exciting football between two of the football heavy weights of the world. Unfortunately for City and me the result did not go our way but it set up a fantastic game for the return fixture.

Barcelona is one of the world`s greatest and most historical clubs who have won the competition 4 times. They are looking to take over Europe once more with new manager Luis Enrique who hopes to become a success like Pep Guardiola. Meanwhile, Manchester City still have not yet shown how good they can be in the Champions league and we are all hoping they can change this around.
After losing the first leg 2-1 what can City do in the 2nd leg?
“It`s all to play for!”

The team. Citys starting eleven on paper should have been a great team but could have been improved by having Navas instead of Nasri start who unfortunately in my opinion simply did not have a great game! We started with Toure and Fernandinho playing deep but we know that Toure can sometimes be a defending liability so we should have played Milner instead and used Toure`s power on the counter attack. Although he occasionally looked dangerous he unfortunately seemed to lack the energy we expect of him. Kolarov and Sagna were solid managing to handle Neymar and Messi well while still managing to get forward. Kolarov`s crosses and shots looked dangerous, but a deflection or that much needed finisher was needed to cause Ter Stegen problems.

Fernandinho broke the play up with lots of running back and forth with Milner helping out in his usual style of battling hard for every ball. Kompany and Demichelis had their hands full with the constant challengers of the best front 3 in the world, City were still a little slow to get rid of the ball out of their area allowing Barcelona to capitalise on it more than once.

Silva looked back to his best, he was graceful, gliding across the turf, fighting for the ball and showcasing his skill as a great player. Aguero as usual attacked the game with energy and skill until his unfortunate penalty miss but the man of the match had to be Joe Hart with his outstanding series of saves and without doubt kept us in the game.

For those who were not fortunate enough to travel the atmosphere was electric, it started on the Metro to Camp Nou. The carriage I boarded was full of City and Barcelona fans both good spirited and chanting their team songs. Commuters and men, women and children of all ages were all smiling, laughing and creating a loud and vibrating atmosphere. I was amazed to see colourful flags of yellow, red, blue with a good support of pale blue all waving in the cool Catalan early evening breeze, the night resembling more Mancunian than Catalonian. The cramped metro carriage had snatches of fans conversations comparing players and how their seasons are going.

As you walked towards the ground the fans were flooding the road leaving the police to usher cars in another direction. Following the many thousands of high spirited fans, Camp Nou looms closer lit up in the sky with bright flood lights, your heart begins to race as you reach the world`s famous stadium.

The artistic stadium stands before you; your head keeps rising up till your eyes eventually reach the summit, it is an amphitheatre of football and a shrine to excellence. You enter through the gates and join the queues for the turnstiles. Your eyes light up at the tiers and tiers of seats, the first glimpse of the grass of the pitch and then your hair stands on end as the noise and atmosphere shakes you. Way up high in the gods City fans pack the highest point almost suffering a nose bleed due to the altitude, the players must appear like Lowry stick men. Barcelona and Catalonia flags are waving all around the stadium, supporters are singing and in all the noise you can hear the City fans coming from the seats high up in the gods of the stadium singing in the hope that their team just might do it!

As both teams finish their warm up there is a cheer of appreciation as they walk off, but my body shakes as 98,000 supporters roar their support for their teams as they walk out on the pitch. As the anthem is played you can feel the excitement building in expectation of the final head to head race for a place in the quarter finals.

The Barcelona fans … I have never seen an individual player worshipped as Messi is by the Barcelona fans, but who can blame them when he plays in such a creative way. The echoing shouting of Messi captivates you and as the game continues you find yourself appreciating and applauding the skill of the Barcelona team. But over all the noise created by the Barcelona fans you can still hear the loyal City fans constantly chanting and singing throughout the match. As the stadium was emptying the City fans expressed their support for the team who showed energy and skill, something that has been missing from their game in recent in weeks.

The Game. Barcelona had all of the early possession keeping the ball away from City as well as keeping it in City`s half. Barcelona had their first good chance when Alves tackled Kompany who could not clear his line, the ball found its way to Neymar who`s shot hit the bottom left of the post before rolling across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick. City picked up 4 yellow cards with silly fouls given to Barcelona in very good positions with Messi hitting the top of the net. City looked cautious and nervous so did not attack as much as was needed, possibly in fear of conceding and in the 31st minute Messi picked up the ball and went on a free flowing mesmerising run taking 3 City players out of the game who were focused on trying to stop the Argentine before he picked up his head and delicately chipped the ball to Rakitic who sent the ball over Joe Harts hands into the top right hand corner of the net making it 3-1 on aggregate.

It was a hard task for City to turn the game around but they stepped up a gear and even though Barcelona kept the pressure on with Neymar and Messi putting in enticing crosses which luckily went out for corners and goal kicks the score remained the same. It was not until Suarez managed to beat the offside trap and was in a one on one and managing to dink Hart with the goal post coming to City`s rescue that Milner made an attempt to score at the other end. City failed to truly test Barcelona`s defence in the first half except for the reliable Aguero and some Kolarov fed crosses to Toure none of which found the Barcelona goal.

At half time Pellegrini opted to substitute Nasri who unfortunately did not make enough of an impact on the game and replaced him with Navas in the hope of adding more pace. City came out fighting, attacking with purpose and looking more dangerous which did leave us a little vulnerable for the counter attack leaving Hart to make several spectacular saves to keep City in the game. City`s defence held a good line so that Barcelona found themselves offside several times. With Toure in a more advanced role City`s attacking presence looked more dangerous and tested the Barcelona defence. Silva`s skill and athleticism aided City in their rise up the pitch, gliding past players creating opportunities and freeing Aguero.
Navas managed to get round the back of Barcelona by playing a smart 1-2 almost finding Aguero who unfortunately couldn`t reach the ball but found its way out to Kolarov whose shot was deflected to Milner who was not able to find his feet and score.

One of City`s last opportunities came when Aguero wriggled past Iniesta and found himself in the box before being brought down. A penalty was given, all that City needed to do was convert it, the eruption of noise in the stadium was unnerving, Aguero’s penalty was saved by Ter Stegen. You could see by contrast the dejection and euphoria of the teams and the fans – it was a crucial point in the match – I felt this was a sign that City were never actually going to see the back of the net. Barcelona attacked but City`s defence stayed strong with Hart again making “worldly saves” putting himself in some great positions and making himself huge in front of goal. Epitomised by Messi`s forward roll of sheer frustration.
When the final whistle blew after nearly 3 minutes of extra time and further City substitutes it meant we were out of the Cup. City should take a lot of pride from this performance; they looked and played better as a team and need to continue playing with this hunger and energy consistently improving if they want to compete against the great teams in Europe.

We left the stadium long after the handshakes and hugs of mutual admiration had long since returned to the locker room. You know you have served your club well when the likes of Lionel Messi come up and shake your hand as he did for Joe.

That was Wednesday night – but today we turn our attention to The Albion and City walk out to warm applause from loyal and appreciative fans.

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