My trip to the Etihad on Tuesday will be my eighth venture of the season and during this time I've become more familiar with the kind of team and club City is trying to be.
When you first arrive at the stadium, you get an idea of the dynasty the owners are trying to build. You're greeted with this wide open area outside the ground called City Square where ex-players will sit and discuss the match with local Manchester bands playing in-between.
City Square, An example of the family approach taken by the club - taken from www.mcfc.co.uk
The idea is clear, they are trying to create a familiar atmosphere. City for years have been dwarfed by their crosstown neighbours but it seems now the blue side of Manchester is trying to tempt the next generation away from Old Trafford.
The club itself is still in the process of trying to establish itself as one of Europe's premier sides. They are currently working on an extension to the South Stand, the stand in which the Barça fans will sit midweek, in an effort to make their maximum capacity closer to Europe's elite. To put it into perspective, Sunderland have a larger ground then City currently do.
However the team is slowly starting to win the trophies that earn a place at Europe's top table. Two Premier League titles in the bag with a FA Cup and a League Cup too. However European success remains the club's achilles heel. Eliminated twice at the group stage before facing Barcelona in first knockout round last year and bowing out with an aggregate score of 4-1 to the Catalans.
Theories of an inferiority complex began to swirl and the match against Barça was seen as a sign that City aren't there yet. The problem is Manchester City is easily one of the most inconsistent sides in Europe. They will produce a shock 3-2 win over Bayern Munich one month, then go on a five game streak without a win the next.
Going to the games it shows how schizophrenic the team is. On one side of the coin, you have this fast paced, technically great team that can systemically break down and destroy teams. On the other hand you have a team whose game is slow and lethargic. They don't work the ball quick enough and before too long, the opposing team nicks a goal that knocks all wind out of City's sails.
The team has a very recognisable spine. Joe Hart has become the permeant number one with captain Vincent Kompany ahead of him. Ex-Barça player Yaya Touré spearheads the midfield with David Silva just ahead before Sergio Agüero up top. When these players are all fit and firing, the team is one of the best in Europe. Each can claim to be one of the best in their position but more often than not, one or more players is having a bad run of form.
These two are pivotal to City's success - taken from www.mcfc.co.uk
Joe Hart endured a shaky start to the season. Both David Silva and Agüero spent lengthy amounts of time on the sidelines due to injury while Kompany is currently slightly off form. Touré too has had his critics claiming he isn't as effective as he was a couple of seasons ago.
The influence of Touré can be discussed in a similar vain to that of Xavi. Many claimed Xavi was now too old to have a big influence on the Barça scene but this season has shown that to be false. The same is with Touré and his recent victorious trip to the Africa Cup of Nations, a period in which City failed to win a league game, which showed his influence on City.
However Touré is suspended due to a red card against CSKA Moscow. With the Ivorian out, the other four players that I mentioned will be even more crucial if City want to get a result on Tuesday, the class and skill of Barcelona demands it. This past weekend turned out to be a perfect scenario for City. Domestically, Chelsea stumbled to Burnley while Barça suffered an even bigger shock at home to Málaga. The Blues followed this up with a impressive 5-0 thumping against a less-than-impressive Newcastle United. This performance personified the kind of team City can be. The passing was quick, the movement excellent and the finishing was lethal. While it is clear Newcastle and Barcelona are leagues apart in terms of their ability, City have to play like they did on Saturday to get a result on Tuesday.
A recent trip to the Etihad Campus to watch David Villa's New York City showed how up for this game City are. In the megastore window a poster decried "City vs Barça: The sequel" and the club have a running countdown on their social media presence in anticipation for the game.
Speaking of the Ethiad, the crowd is another well talked about topic. For the 1-1 draw to Roma, Ex-United legend Paul Scholes was a pundit for ITV and was quick to criticise the less than full ground
"When you come here it just doesn't have a European night feel to it. You go to Liverpool, you go to Old Trafford, you go to Chelsea, they have a special feeling for it."
City attempted to combat this for the CSKA Moscow game with a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Much to the amusement of United fans, "If you go down to Man City, you'll buy one get one free, buy one get one free", but the plan worked and the ground was sold out. However the kind of fans that came weren't the ones who would be singing their heart out, cheering on the team.
Truly the best European night that I have experienced, was when Bayern came to town. City were facing elimination from the tournament and the crowd genuinely got behind the team and this culminated in a euphoric atmosphere when Agüero's winner flew in. Pellegrini will be hoping for a similar atmosphere in an attempt to complete the hard task of unnerving a team used to a crowd of 99,000.
Call me crazy but I can see a scenario in which City get a result on Tuesday. The first task is getting the team selection right. City will be forced to give up the majority of possession but Pellegrini may try and flood the midfield with the likes of Lampard, Silva, Fernandinho, Nasri and Fernando all starting. This does, however, leave the sole striker of Sergio Agüero and a player like Edin Džeko could hurt Barça with his aerial threat.
Silva is most effective in the hole between midfield and attack but that coincides with the areas Iniesta and Xavi are also most effective. Stopping Silva cuts off Agüero's main feeder and the Argentine could see his chances limited.
The defence will also have to be on top form. Pablo Zabaleta is one of the best defenders in the league, but Gael Clichy or Alexander Kolorov represent an opportunity to get at City for the likes of Messi and Neymar. It's been said that playing Barça is not only a physical test but a mental one too. To stay alert for 90 minutes is a tough ask but one that Kompany and co. will have to overcome if they hope to nick a result.
Both teams have changed since their last match a year ago but this fixture again represents a huge test for City to stake a claim in Europe's finest.
Predicted City Lineup:
If the good City turn up: 2-2
If the bad City turn up: 1-3