City 'in better shape' to face Barca this time
MANUEL Pellegrini believes Manchester City are in far better shape to take on Barcelona in this season's Champions League than they were when they lost to the same opponents in the competition 12 months ago.
The Catalan club visit the Etihad Stadium tomorrow for the first leg of the last-16 tie, a repeat of last season's two-legged meeting from which Barca emerged as 4-1 aggregrate winners and City had players sent off in each game.
But after a 5-0 victory over Newcastle on Saturday hauled City to within five points of Premier League leaders Chelsea, Pellegrini claimed that his side will be far tougher opponents this year.
"It is better because last year, we arrived in February after we played 18 games, nine in December and nine in January," he said.
"Of those 18, we won 16 and drew two. I think we arrived not in our best moment. It was important also, the sending-off of Martin Demichelis.
"This year, we played fewer games last month, so we will try to continue in the Champions League.
"All the games are different but we are going to try from the beginning, as we did today, to be an aggressive team and to try and score goals.
"Maybe it is not a normal game because it is 180 minutes, so you must try to score but try not to concede. But on Tuesday, you will see our team trying to play in the same way."
Victory over Newcastle came courtesy of two goals from David Silva, a Sergio Aguero penalty, Samir Nasri and a goal from Edin Dzeko, his first since late September.
New £28 million (S$59 million) striker Wilfried Bony came off the bench as a second-half substitute, and his introduction to the City squad seemed to have the desired effect on his fellow forwards, who looked in scintillating form - none more so than Dzeko.
City could have ended the day 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, but their emphatic win over Newcastle was preceded by the leaders surprisingly dropping two home points against Burnley in a 1-1 draw.
The memory of last season, when City overcame a seven-point deficit with six games remaining to pip Liverpool to the title, is still fresh in the City manager's mind.
"The experience is always important but last season, we had two or three games in hand," he said.
"This season, we now have 36 points more to play for and we must try not to drop points. I think all the teams will drop points from now until the end of the season, so we will see which team will drop the least points."