Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has revealed that Fernandinho is in contention to return against Barcelona on Tuesday, but that Sergio Aguero remains on the sidelines. The Brazilian midfielder has missed City’s last three matches with a muscle injury, but could well return for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad. As expected, though, Aguero continues to be ruled out.
“Fernandinho has a chance to play tomorrow. He is in the squad and trained without any problems today. Aguero is not in the squad but we will see if we can have him back for Stoke City on Saturday.”
Since Aguero’s injury, Pellegrini has tried all three combinations involving his remaining strikers -- Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. Negredo looks the one certainty to start, having grabbed 23 goals so far this campaign. In the impressive 2-0 FA Cup win over Chelsea on Saturday, Jovetic scored the opening goal and generally impressed. His greater versatility than Dzeko may well see him get the nod. Pellegrini was also asked during his pre-match press conference whether he would consider bringing in an extra midfielder, likely Samir Nasri, to try and counter Barcelona’s strengths.
“We will see the way we are going to play," he said. "I believe in a style of playing but you can make changes, you can play in different ways but I'm absolutely sure that we can have 11 defending but if we don't know how to defend we're not going to do it well. Just as we could have 11 midfielders but if we don't have possession of the ball we are going to lose the ball.”
Like City, Barcelona come into the eagerly anticipated contest on the back of a confidence-boosting win. A 6-0 win over Rayo Vallecano saw Lionel Messi bag a brace, while Neymar returned from an ankle injury off the bench and scored an eye-catching late goal. With Alexis Sanchez and Pedro in fine form this campaign, coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino faces a selection headache of his own up front. He has suggested, though, that Neymar may again be used from the bench.
“We have to look after his health,” he said. “After what has happened with him, we have to decide whether it’s best to put him on from the start or keep him in reserve.”
The win over Rayo meant that Barcelona remained level on points with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, while they also secured their passage through to the Copa del Rey final last week. Yet, Barcelona’s season has not been without problems both on and off the pitch. Indeed, Martino has faced criticism for his perceived moving away from the club’s famed tiki-taka style. The Argentine was under no illusions, though, that possession will be key against City.
“We need to have possession of the ball as that will elevate us and go against City,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “After doing that, then we can think about trying to grab a goal. Maintaining possession benefits us and it reduces City’s chances.
“They are a dangerous team. The fact that they’re the highest scoring team in the Premier League shows that they are difficult to control, and when we have to defend, we’ll defend. The best way to counteract them is to take the ball away from them.”
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie will kick off from the Etihad Stadium at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available via a free trial to Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.