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UEFA Champions League, Manchester City vs. Barcelona: Q&A With FOX Sports' Warren Barton

We spoke with FOX Sports' Warren Barton today to get his thoughts on Barcelona's 2-0 triumph over Manchester City in the Champions League. Read on to hear what the former England international had to say about this "clash of titans."

Clive Brunskill

You expected Barcelona to win over two legs, but you said maybe Manchester City would win this one game. Does this mean you think there's essentially no chance that City would progress?

Warren Barton: I think it's gonna be very difficult. Just looking at Barcelona now, with Lionel Messi fit... maybe 5 weeks ago, I would have backed City at home, maybe with Sergio Aguero being in the equation for Manchester City. But Barcelona now are quite driven. I think they want to try and get back to a final. The players, particularly Xavi, are maybe coming into the last season or two seasons of their Barcelona careers. I think that point of view is what some of the players have. Maybe with what happened last year against Bayern Munich, they're really driven to go all the way this year. At Camp Nou, they're an outstanding team, their record is excellent.

Is this a statement game? Arsene Wenger said City were "slight favorites." Jose Mourinho said this was the "worst Barcelona of many, many years." Was this an answer to that?

WB: Yes, there's no doubt. Gerard Pique came out and said that they lost that fear factor, which they had. They lost 7-0 on aggregate against Bayern Munich. So they lost that fear factor, but there's nothing better than for world class players to have that extra incentive. It may be that they were so dominant and so successful that they got somewhat complacent in their play. From that point of view, Mourinho will always go against Barca, because he was a coach for Real Madrid. That's Mourinho's mentality, that's how he is. But I still think when you've got Messi, Neymar, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez... they're a team to be reckoned with. They still have areas where maybe you can expose them. But that's if you actually get the ball off them. I think City showed them far too much respect. Whether that was their coach Manuel Pellegrini, or midfielder Yaya Toure, or some of these players that weren't at their best. They didn't look like City at home where they scored over 70 goals. They lost their drive. Barcelona, once they get into a rhythm, are still the best in the world.

Speaking tactically, City came out with two players you expect at left-back, Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov. Were they trying to play conservatively? Was it a mistake?

WB: Yeah, I think for anyone that's been successful against Barcelona... whether it's been Celtic in the group stage last year, or whether it's Bayern Munich last year... you play conservative, but you also play aggressive when you have the ball. City didn't do that. They played at Barcelona's tempo, and once you do that, you are never going to beat them. You have to take them out of their stride. You have to make Sergio Busquets face his own goal. You have to make Dani Alves defend. You have to make Pique defend balls. And they never did that. Of course, Barcelona is going to have the ball. They're going to have it large parts of the game. But I think City stood back and didn't play to Alvaro Negredo's strengths, Yaya Toure wasn't as physical or as dominant as we've seen. Maybe that was the respect of playing against his old team.

After the match, everyone was talking about the referee. Pellegrini was blasting him. How much do you think the referee was a factor?

WB: No, I think he made the right calls. I think coaches have to look at their decisions. Go back to Pellegrini, when they played Bayern Munich, and taking strikers off when you needed one goal to top their group, with still 10, 12 minutes to go. He talks about the referee to take away from Barcelona, but for me it was the right call. Martin Demichelis was the last man. The slide started outside, but the contact was inside the box. There was no surprise. If you look at people's reactions afterwards, they knew it was the case. There's no doubt in my mind that the referee made the right call. Demichelis started the slide outside the box, but when he actually touched him, it was in the box.

How do you think Tata Martino did in his first Champions League knockout stage game?

WB: It's very difficult for a coach of Barcelona because, I mean, that team picks itself. And that team plays its own way. He's been clever enough and respectful enough to just let the players play. It's not rocket science. They play their own way, there's not a tactical switch. They're not going to switch like Manchester City, where they play Aguero and David Silva, and then play Negredo. Barcelona play Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Dani Alves - it picks itself. It's whether you play Sanchez or Pedro, but they're similar players. It's whether they play Fabregas or Xavi, they're similar players. What a good coach would do is just let them play.

We’d like to thank everyone at FOX Sports for taking the time to work with us. We'd also like to thank Warren specifically for providing us with his expert insight. For more analysis, be sure to catch their coverage of the Champions League on FOX Sports. Also, you can follow Warren Barton on twitter @warrenbarton2.

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