Javier Mascherano has struck back at Barcelona’s critics ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester City. Following a dismal 1-0 loss to Real Valladolid at the weekend, which has left them four points off the Primera Division summit, many have written of Barcelona’s title chances and suggested that the defeat is symbolic of a wider decline in the club’s fortunes. But Mascherano believes the strength of the reaction is down to the harsh scrutiny put on Barcelona, and warned against writing off their prospects.
"We know how it goes, sometimes things are over-dramatized,” he explained, according to Spanish publication Marca. “If you are a Barca player, it's something you get used to.
"This isn't Disney, nor is it the House of Horrors. We are in the last 16 in the Champions League, in the Cup final and it's still possible to win the league. No title is lost to us. They shouldn't think that we're dead and buried.”
Despite losing three of their last six matches in La Liga, and playing like a shadow of their former selves against Valladolid, Barcelona demonstrated some of the possession-orientated control of their pomp to establish a 2-0 advantage over Manchester City from the first leg at the Etihad. Having gone with a policy to thwart City’s attacking weapons by simply denying them the ball, they then prospered following Martin Demichelis’s sending off.
History shows just how difficult City’s task now is as they look to overturn their deficit heading to the Camp Nou. Only six times in the 58 years of the European Cup has a side come back to win a tie after losing the first leg at home. Barcelona have won 32 out of the 34 ties in UEFA competitions where they have triumphed in the first leg away from home.
Like, Barcelona, City do not come into the match in ideal circumstances. Sunday saw Manuel Pellegrini’s side stunned at home by second-tier side Wigan Athletic to be sent packing from the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. Still, captain Vincent Kompany believes that his side, which will have Sergio Aguero back after the Argentine missed out three weeks ago, have the weapons to do damage to Barcelona and get the goals required for a sensational turnaround.
"I am looking to the strikers we have -- I think of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko -- that is what I want to focus on. We have firepower up front. If everything goes well we are capable of hurting Barcelona,” he said in the pre-match press conference. "If we get the lead, then the dynamics of the game will change, I am convinced. But obviously it is one of the toughest places in the world to come and try to achieve something like this."
With Demichelis suspended and Matija Nastasic injured, Kompany is set to be partnered in the center of defense by Joleon Lescott. Forward Stevan Jovetic is also ruled out. City will also be without their manager, with Pellegrini having been handed a three-match ban, one of which is suspended, following his criticism of referee Jonas Eriksson in the aftermath of the first leg. Assistant manager Ruben Cousillas will deputize on the sideline.
Andres Iniesta, who was absent at the weekend after his wife suffered a miscarriage, has returned to the Barcelona squad.
Where to watch: The second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie will kick off at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.