Gerardo Martino believes possession will be key as FC Barcelona's run of six successive UEFA Champions League semi-finals undergoes a fierce test at Manchester City FC.
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FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino believes possession will be key as the Spanish side's run of six successive UEFA Champions League semi-finals undergoes a fierce examination. Manchester City FC, he admits, are among the best in the world now and their round of 16 tie "could have been a final", though opposite number Manuel Pellegrini is eager for his team to approach it like any other fixture.
Manuel Pellegrini, City manager
So far we have had a good season and we must finish in the same way – and one of our targets, of course, is to try to continue in the Champions League.
When you play against Barcelona, and big teams, you must always consider important things. But I think the most important thing is to try to be the same team that you see here every week in the Premier League. But you cannot play without considering that you have Messi and other important players [against you]; but we are not going to play just thinking of that.
I am absolutely sure the fans will enjoy this game. I also think they enjoyed it a lot when we qualified for the knockout round for the first time. But I also think the supporters are enjoying the season in the Premier League and in both cups we are playing in. But for me always very important – and I've said it before – is that the fans like the way we play. For me, I think we can have both things – to achieve important results and to play in a style that the fans enjoy.
Saturday: City 2-0 Chelsea FC (Jovetić 16, Nasri 67)
Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Javi García, Touré, Silva (Navas 69); Jovetić (Nasri 61); Džeko (Negredo 81).
• Pellegrini's men eliminated from the FA Cup opponents who had beaten them 1-0 in Manchester 12 days before in the Premier League, a result that ended City's 100% record on home soil in domestic competition this term.
Samir Nasri, making his first appearance for a month, capped his return from a medial ligament injury with the second goal against Chelsea. James Milner is suspended while Sergio Agüero misses out with a hamstring problem.
Gerardo Martino, Barcelona coach
This could have been the final. It would have been ideal if we had met them a bit later, maybe in the last eight, because the teams are both very good and City are doing well in the league and in the cups. At the moment it is the perfect time for both teams to come into this game.
We don't have to prioritise either scoring or not conceding. Obviously, we want to maintain possession, which is what we like and what benefits us, and if that leads to us scoring a goal then all the better. City are very similar to us. They are maybe a bit more direct but they are very good at keeping possession. I think the team with less time on the ball is the team that is going to suffer the most.
I don't think Manchester City are a mini Barcelona or a mini any team, though: I think they are one of the greatest teams in the world right now. What I really like is Manchester City's diversity. They have so many different threats; they are good at set pieces, good in the air and they score a lot of goals. Obviously, for us to defend that we will have to keep possession.
For the last six seasons Barcelona have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, so the fans are used to that and they will find it difficult to understand if we don't go through. But obviously it is the tightest tie of them all. As a fan, I am sorry that [Agüero] is not playing because obviously we want to see the best players in the world – but as a coach it is one less problem for me.
Saturday: Barcelona 6-0 Rayo Vallecano de Madrid (Adriano 2, Messi 36 68, Alexis 53, Pedro 56, Neymar 89)
Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol (Mascherano 68), Adriano; Fàbregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi (Tello 74), Pedro (Neymar 62).
• With his double on Saturday, Lionel Messi (337) overtook Telmo Zarra's record of 335 goals registered with one Spanish club. It lifted him to 228 Spanish Liga strikes, ahead of Alfredo Di Stéfano, level with Raúl González and behind only Hugo Sánchez (234 goals) and Zarra (251).
Neymar struck against Rayo Vallecano on his comeback from a month-long absence with a right ankle injury but Martino says he will not risk him from the start unless he is ready. Xavi Hernández (calf) was left out at the weekend. Jonathan Dos Santos (knee) remains sidelined.
• City's squad features four Spaniards – Javi García, Jesús Navas, Álvaro Negredo and David Silva – along with four more players also signed from Spain's top flight. Additionally they have, in Pellegrini, a coach well-acquainted with the Spanish game and, in director of football Txiki Begiristain, a man who knows Barcelona better than most.