By Ian Palmer
Once again Manchester City shot themselves in the foot during a European Champions League game against Spanish La Liga giants Barcelona. It’s hard enough to face the Spanish side with 11 men, but to do it with just 10 players on the pitch is nearly impossible. For the third straight time against Barcelona the English Premier League squad had a man sent off the pitch with a red card. The two clubs met last year in the Champions League round-of-16 stage and are at it again this season. Barcelona took the two-legged tie 4-1 on aggregate last year with a 2-0 win in Manchester and a 2-1 victory at home. City didn’t help their cause in those contests as they had a player sent off in each of them.
Fast forward to this year and we see that things haven’t changed. City was reduced to 10 men again on Feb. 14 when French international Gael Clichy received his marching orders at the minute mark after receiving his second yellow card. The 2-1 result for Barcelona was predictable, but it could have been worse for City if it wasn’t for the last-minute heroics performed by goaltender Joe Hart. Barcelona built up a 2-0n lead in the first half on a pair of goals by Uruguayan international striker and former Liverpool man Luis Suarez. When Suarez isn’t busy biting opponents he’s also pretty good at his other job, which is putting the ball in the net.
Suarez opened the scoring in the 16th minute and then doubled the lead 14 minutes later. City played better in the second half and a goal by Argentine international striker Sergio Aguero in the 69th minute gave them some hope when he shot eluded goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. However, Clichy then knocked all the wind out of City’s sail a few minutes later when he was ejected with his second yellow for an ill-timed challenge in Dani Alves. Barcelona then received an opportunity to bury the home side in the tie with a penalty kick in stoppage time. Aguero’s goal gives him 11in his past 10 Champions League outings and it was Barcelona’s 200th Champions League game. The goal against means they’ve let in exactly 200 in 200 matches.
City defender Pablo Zabaleta took down Argentine striker Lionel Messi in the box and it looked like Barcelona was going to take a 3-1 lead back home to the camp Nu in three week’s time. However, Hart dove the right way to make the save and Messi then headed the rebound wide of the open net. It was a huge miss considering the ridiculous away-goals rule used in the tournament. City now has a chance to advance to the next stage of the event if they can manage to pull out a win in Barcelona. However, they might as well forget it if they can’t keep 11 men on the pitch. The game is scheduled for March 18 with bet365 listing Barcelona at 4/8 to win with Man City 11/2 and a draw at 7/2.