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Dec 16, 2013

Barca expect 'tough battle' vs. Man City

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino admitted he had been hoping to avoid Manchester City, after Monday’s Champions League last-16 draw paired two of the competition favourites together.

Manchester City's director of football Txiki Begiristain, left, with former Barca vice-president Amador Bernabeu at the draw in Nyon.
Manchester City's director of football Txiki Begiristain, left, with former Barca vice-president Amador Bernabeu at the draw in Nyon.

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City were widely seen as the most dangerous of Barca's potential opponents in the knockout phase, particularly after last week’s 3-2 comeback win away to holders Bayern Munich.

The Blaugrana coach told his post-training news conference that the draw had not exactly been ideal.

"They would probably not have wanted to play against us either," Martino said. "I know City well, they have good players and score goals very easily. The key for us is to arrive well in the month of February."

The clash is brimming with sub-plots -- the English side’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano have both worked previously at the Camp Nou, midfielder Yaya Toure is an ex-Blaugrana player and coach Manuel Pellegrini is experienced in facing Barca from his spells in charge of Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga.

Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta suggested to Canal Plus that both sides could benefit from inside knowledge in what was likely to be a closely fought tie.

"A great tie, with many players we know from our league," Zubizarreta said. "It is a very high-level tie for when the competition starts again in February. They have players who we know, like Yaya Toure, and others from our league. It will be a tough battle, for both."

The former Barca goalkeeper predicted two exciting games, suggesting both sides were better going forward than defending.

"I have the feeling that these are two teams who attack really well,"Zubizarreta said. "Both sides have midfielders and attackers of the very top level. The two squads have a lot of talent, they will be attractive games."

Begiristain also told the Spanish TV channel that the two games were a mouth-watering prospect.

"I do not know if it could have been better, or worse!" the former Barca winger joked. "But it will be entertaining for everyone, for sure.

"It will be difficult, we are playing against a great champion team, with confidence, with players who have a great mentality, that is a difficult. But we are doing very well, we create a lot of chances, we are strong - scoring in every game, even three goals at Munich."

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini added: “I think it is a beautiful game with two very good teams. For me it was exactly the same against whom we have to play so we will see in February which team arrives the best.

“I repeat, all the 16 teams that play in the last 16 are the best teams of Europe so Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dormtund, Paris Saint-Germain for me was exactly the same.”

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