Champions League last 16: Suarez brace puts Barca in charge
Two first half goals by Luis Suarez gave Barcelona a 2-1 win at Manchester City as they moved within sight of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday eve though Lionel Messi missed a late penalty.
In a repeat of last season's round of 16 first leg at the Etihad, Barcelona were too slick for City who were sent reeling by a dizzying opening 45 minutes from the visitors.
Uruguay forward Suarez fired Barca in front in the 16th minute and doubled the lead after half an hour with the hosts powerless to stop the yellow tide surging towards their goal.
A vastly improved second half showing from City gave them hope for the second leg at the Nou Camp next month with Sergio Aguero halving the deficit 20 minutes from time.
With City down to 10 men after Gael Clichy's red card, Messi could have restored Barcelona's two-goal lead but his penalty was saved by Hart before the Argentine headed the rebound wide.
Luis Suarez struck twice in the first half as Barcelona defeated Manchester City 2-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium.
29" Messi at his best weaving his way past a host of defenders and finds Jordi Alba on the left who crosses from the touchline and Suarez is at hand to tap it home.
City 0 Barca 2 (Suarez 16" 29")
16" Messi finds Suarez in the box and he makes a most of a fumble by Kompany to place the ball past Joe Hart in goal.
City 0 Barca 1 (Suarez 16")
11" Suarez makes good some sloppy defending by City but his selfishness gets the better of him. Instead of passing he has a shy which is wide.
9" Demichelis makes a good save blocking Messi from having a crack at goal from inside six-yard box.
5" Aguero is tackled from behind by Mascherano. It's a free-kick just outside the Barca box but City fail to capitalise.
1" Kompany is pushed by Neymar and he almost scores an own goal but luckily for him and the team it misses the target.
The Champions League anthem is done away with and it's time for some action.
We are 10 minutes away from kick-off and the spotlight could be on Suarez who has scored only 7 goals in 22 appearances compared to Aguero's 22 goals from 28 matches.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar start in attack for Barcelona, with Xavi on the substitutes bench. Ter Stegen replaces Claudio Bravo in goal while Ivan Rakitic gets the nod from coach Luis Enrique.
On the other hand Manuel Pellegrini opts for Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in attack with James Milner coming into midfield in place of Yaya Toure who is serving his three-match ban. New signing Wilfried Bony has to settle for a place on the substitutes bench.
Manchester City XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando, Milner, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko, Aguero.
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Pique, Rakitic, Sergio, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Mascherano, J.Alba, Alves.
Luis Suarez, the reigning player of the year in English football, will make his first appearance in England since his move from Liverpool in the summer for £75m.
He was made to wait in Spain, serving a four-month ban from football-related activity for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup, and hasn't really set La Liga on fire yet.
There will be no shortage of attacking talent on show tonight at the Etihad Stadium. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar for Barcelona, while City could pair Wilfried Bony with Sergio Aguero.
City come into this game on the back of a thumping 5-0 win over Newcastle at the weekend.
A year ago at the same stage City bowed out 4-1 on aggregate against the four-times European champions.
City are just five points off leaders Chelsea in the Premier League.
City beat Bayern 3-2 and Roma 2-0 in the group phase.
Their 11-match unbeaten run ended in a surprise 1-0 defeat to Malaga at the weekend.
They have won their last 4 matches in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
They have scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
The trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored 14 goals so far in 2015.
Manchester City: 4-2-3-1
Manchester City have been on a steep learning curve in the Champions League but Tuesday's last 16 first-leg clash with four-times European kings Barcelona offers a chance to show they are now serious contenders.
Last season's exit at the identical stage also against Barca, 4-1 on aggregate, revealed City's shortcomings in a squad good enough to win the Premier League but still lacking authority and discipline against Europe's very best.
A year later, however, and City are approaching the tie with growing optimism, even if they will be missing midfield talisman Yaya Toure at the Etihad on Tuesday as he completes a three-match suspension for his red card against CSKA Moscow.
After finding their creative edge blunted in recent months, City's attacking flair returned with a vengeance as they crushed Newcastle United 5-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
In contrast, Barca's lethal-looking frontline misfired badly at the weekend as their 11-match unbeaten run ended in a surprise 1-0 defeat by a well-drilled Malaga side.
City's run to the last 16 a year ago was their best effort in the competition after two successive failures to survive the group stage and they will be buoyed by the way they sneaked into the knockout round this time, beating Bayern Munich and AS Roma.
Both of those victories were recorded without Toure.
On-loan midfielder Frank Lampard, a veteran of many battles with Barca from his Chelsea days, says that while the Catalans must be respected, City have the weapons to out-gun Barcelona and reach the last eight for the first time.
"You can admire and respect them so long as that doesn't transmit into giving them too much space to do what they do best," said Lampard, who was in the Chelsea side that beat Barca in the semis on the way to their 2012 Champions League triumph.
"I played against Barcelona when they were at their very best four or five years ago and they were absolutely flying - in truth, there's not much you can do when they play like that - but we have players who can hurt them, too."
In Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri, Manuel Pellegrini's City side can score goals but keeping Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez quiet, as well as having 11 men on the pitch unlike last season, will be the key.
Messi scored in both legs last term and has recently been in scintillating form again, even if he was subdued against Malaga.
Barca defender Gerard Pique says City's natural propensity to attack could play into his side's hands as they seek an eighth successive place in the quarter-finals.
"City are a team that is more attack-minded and that will help us as it will be a more open game," he said.
"We need to put (Malaga) behind us because on Tuesday we face the most important game of the year."
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