Four bookings in the opening 35 minutes ended Manuel Pellegrini’s intentions for his Manchester City team to calm down and improve their horrific disciplinary record. Wild challenges, in particular one from Samir Nasri that should have warranted a red card, continued as Fernandinho, David Silva and Aleksandar Kolarov all received early bookings, and Martin Demichelis picked one up later on. It even prompted Pellegrini to switch Nasri for Jesus Navas ahead of the second half, a move he would hardly have wanted to make. Barca were so superior to the English champions that it wouldn’t have been a surprise for more bookings, and it proves City have plenty to learn in European competition.
Everything about Barcelona’s display proved they are ready to take on Real Madrid this weekend. Even with an extra week of rest, Madrid wouldn’t have coped with a Barca in this form, especially considering their dodgy form. Many consider the Clasico to be more about the titanic battle between Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and on tonight’s showing there will be only one winner. Messi gave a performance to rival any others, his only fault in that he didn’t bag more than one assist or register a goal. He could argue that he’s saving them for the weekend, and if he puts in a repeat performance then there will be no stopping his or Barca’s infectious rhythm going forwards.
City were given a lifeline for much of the second leg and not just because of Messi’s penalty miss in the first. They always needed to score twice at the Nou Camp to stand any chance of progression, and Barcelona’s refusal to take one more of their chances almost proved costly. An Aguero penalty miss could have made the tie more interesting and galvanised a City team that had failed to contest large parts of the game. If the Argentine had scored, it should have counted as a mere consolation as Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were almost single-handedly thwarted by Joe Hart. The English keeper reinforced his position as number one with a string of sublime saves, though he should not have been given a chance had the front three been more clinical. They may have to be in latter rounds, and in this weekend’s Clasico, if they are to become a multi-title winning side this year.
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