When Manchester City step onto the turf at the Etihad Stadium for today’s match against Barcelona it will mark the first time the Citizens have ever played a Round of 16 contest in the Champions League.
For City midfielder David Silva, winning the match would represent a landmark victory for the club.
“It will be difficult, but beating Barcelona would be like a coming of age for Man City, very important for our confidence and international recognition,” Silva told the Manchester Evening News.
“It is a pity that we are without Sergio Aguero and possibly Fernandinho, who is very important for us in midfield. Sometimes we get a bit broken in midfield, there is too much separation between lines when we go forward, and are susceptible to the counter attack.”
While Aguero has been deemed out for the match and Edin Dzeko remains hampered by an ankle injury, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic are likely to start up top. Since scoring in the 5-1 rout of Tottenham on January 29th, Jovetic has started the 0-0 league draw with Norwich and the 2-0 win over Chelsea in last weekend’s FA Cup. The Montenegrin international scored and was fantastic against the Blues, proving that his early season injury issues are well behind him.
Fernandinho will be a late fitness test after taking part in training at the Etihad Stadium on Monday morning. The Brazilian has been suffering with a muscle injury since the end of January.
Of equal importance to Fernandinho is City’s center-back pairing. With Matija Nastasic’s knee injury, Vincent Kompany will pair with either Joleon Lescott or Martin Demichelis. Lescott, who fell out of favor earlier in the season, had a terrific return to the starting XI in Sunday’s win over Chelsea and looks the favorite to get the call against Barcelona.
No matter what the lineup permutation, for Silva the winning prescription remains the same: “The key is to keep up the pressure for 90 minutes, to avoid silly mistakes and take advantage of the chances.”
Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.
The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.
The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.
Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.
Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.
As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.
However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.
“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”
Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”
It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.