Barcelona forward Pedro claims today’s Champions League match at Manchester City is the most important so far this season.
Pedro, who’s expected to feature in today’s clash at the Etihad, admits that the Citizens would not have been the Blaugrana’s first choice opponents in the Round of 16 but that you need to beat the big teams to win European club football’s most prestigious tournament.
“Really we would have preferred another rival in the draw,” he said, “but if Barcelona dreams of the final in Lisbon, it is obligatory to beat the big rivals – and City is on that list.
“We always play to our maximum level but perhaps this week we are looking at the most important match of the season. Manchester City is a tough rival in its own stadium but we are prepared to play in these venues. I like the atmosphere in England. For me, it is an example for other leagues.”
Despite the tie being decided at the Nou Camp, Pedro explained that posturing would not be a part of Barcelona’s match plan. “Normally this round will be resolved in the Nou Camp, but we want a good score in England,” he added. “Not only a goal, but a match of quality.”
A match of quality is exactly what the fans crave. With many questioning the strength of this Barcelona side compared to teams of past years, and with this being City’s first dip into the Champions League Round of 16, what’s in store between these two sides is anyone’s guess.
Erling Haaland injury: Manchester City assess star
He has scored 42 (yes, forty two) goals in all competitions for Man City this season.
However, Pep Guardiola and Man City now face an anxious wait as an injury to Erling Haaland is the last thing they wanted before a pivotal final few months of the season as they chase the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
Norway’s team doctor, Ola Sand, gave an update on Haaland’s injury.
“We hoped that this was just a familiarity that would carry over to Saturday, but after doing tests and examinations yesterday it became clear that he will not make it to the games against Spain and Georgia,” Sand said. “It is better that he receives medical follow-up at the club.”
Norway face Spain on Saturday and Georgia next Tuesday, so it seems like Haaland is in a race to be fit for Man City’s games after the international break.
Which games could he miss?
After the international break Man City are playing in the first game of the weekend as they host Liverpool on Saturday, Apr. 1 at the Etihad Stadium.
It seems like Haaland could be struggling to be fully fit for that game, and maybe even the trip to Southampton on Apr. 8, so Pep Guardiola may choose to rest him for their massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich on Apr. 11.
Given the form Haaland is in right now, it will be a blow for City if he does miss the next few games but the last thing they want is any long-term damage. Plus, it’s helpful to have the likes of World Cup winner Julian Alvarez in reserve to step in for Haaland.
Ever Wonder where the Leicester title-winning team is now?
With odds of 5000-1 to win the Premier League title in 2015-16, Leicester City pulled off one of the greatest shocks in sports history.
But have you ever wondered ‘hey, what is that Leicester team up to now? What happened to them?’
Club legends and captains
After captaining them to FA Cup glory and being the main man in recent years, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel left Leicester in 2022 and is now starring for Nice in France.
Right back Danny Simpson, center backs Robert Huth and Wes Morgan and left back Christian Fuchs have all retired with the latter playing for Charlotte FC in MLS in 2022.
Morgan lifting the Premier League trophy alongside beloved manager Claudio Ranieri, who is still coaching in Italy in Serie B with Cagliari, is an image that is in sporting folklore.
Superstars move on to even more glory
In midfield, N’Golo Kante has gone on to win the Premier League again and Champions League, among other trophies, with Chelsea. Internationally – he started every game for France as they won the World Cup in 2018.
His midfield partner at Leicester – Danny Drinkwater – also joined Chelsea, but is currently without a club after loan moves across the Premier League, Turkey and the Championship.
Winger Riyad Mahrez is a star at Manchester City, winning three more Premier League titles, while on the other wing, Marc Albrighton left Leicester on loan in January 2023 for West Bromwich Albion in the Championship but is still contracted to the club.
Veterans still plugging away and one continues to party…
Striker Shinji Okazaki is playing in Belgium for Sint-Truiden, while fellow forward Leonardo Ulloa retired after spells in Mexico and Spain.
Meanwhile – veteran striker Jamie Vardy is of course still at Leicester, and will forever go down as a club legend.
He played a key part in their FA Cup triumph and recent European exploits, and won the Premier League Golden Boot award three years ago. He never misses a party.
As for the other key contributors off the bench, Demarai Gray is at Everton, Jeffrey Schlupp is at Crystal Palace, Ben Chilwell is at Chelsea and is England’s second-choice left back, Richie de Laet is still playing at Royal Antwerp, Andy King is at Bristol City and Nathan Dyer has retired.
Wherever they are now, this group of players will always be known as the team who pulled off one of the greatest upsets the sporting world has ever seen.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City can momentarily cut the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points but there are question marks swirling around the fitness of goalscoring machine Erling Haaland heading into this game. City are looking for a three-peat of Premier League titles and five in the last six seasons, but Arsenal don’t look like they’re going to slip up anytime soon. So City can’t afford to either. They’ve won six in a row in all competitions, scoring 23 and conceding once in that run. We all know they love to kick on at this point of the campaign, so let’s see if they can do it again.
As for Liverpool, well, it has been one step forward and one step back pretty much all season long for Jurgen Klopp’s side. After their 7-0 shellacking of Manchester United, they then lost at Bournemouth to infuriate Klopp and their fans further. The front three of Salah, Nunez and Gakpo are all clicking through the gears nicely but Liverpool have to become more consistent and dominant games in midfield if they’re going to close the gap to the current top four. They’ve had success against City in recent years as their contrasting style of play match up well but this seems like a different, more fragile, Liverpool this season.
How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The fitness of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. If he isn’t fit to start then expect Julian Alvarez to come in. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his Appendectomy. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.
Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Erling Haaland (groin) | OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed)
Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Calvin Ramsay (knee), Stefan Bajcetic (groin) | QUESTIONABLE: Luis Diaz (knee), Darwin Nunez (ankle), Kostas Tsimikas (rib), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Joe Gomez (undisclosed)
Graham Potter’s Chelsea were pinned back before the international break as they drew 2-2 at home against Everton after leading twice. However, they are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions and have reached the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Things are looking a bit better for the Blues in their 3-4-3 formation and the pressure has eased on Potter slightly as players continue to return from injury. A win against Villa this weekend will keep their slim hopes of a top four finish alive but a top six finish is probably as good as it will get for them this season.
Unai Emery has done a phenomenal job at Villa with the Spanish coach leading them from a relegation scrap to a quest for European qualification within just a few months. Villa are resolute defensively and have a clear playing style as they love to catch opponents out on the counter and they did that brilliantly in their 3-0 win against Bournemouth last time out. With three wins in their last four, can Villa continue their surge and push for a top six finish?
How to watch Chelsea vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Chelsea have so many players stepping up in recent weeks but Joao Felix and Kai Havertz have really got going in attack. The duo are scoring goals, creating chances and Chelsea look much more confident when they get into the final third. Enzo Fernandez and Benoit Badiashile have both slotted in seamlessly following their January moves. Yes, Chelsea are still a long way back when it comes to the top four but they are they kind of team who can go on a long unbeaten run and they certainly have so many options with a massive squad of players all pushing to start in this new fluid 3-4-3 system.
Villa’s recent success has been built on solid defense and Emiliano Martinez in goal and Tyrone Mings at center back have been back to their best. Ollie Watkins leading the line always causes problems and midfield creators and wingers always seem to be ready to counter and cause a surprise. Emery has done a remarkable job at Villa and it will be a lot of fun to see how close they can get to a top six finish this season.
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Thiago Silva (knee), Armando Broja (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Raheem Sterling (hamstring), Mason Mount (abdominal), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (back), Cesar Azpilicueta (head), Reece James (thigh), Wesley Fofana (thigh)