After escaping a group featuring the reigning champions, Manchester City may have been hoping for an easier assignment in the Round of 16. Well, Lady Luck stuck one firm finger up in the direction of those hopes and instead made life just about as tough as it can be for City.
It’s Barcelona in what is a mouth-watering tie, but one that doesn’t inspire a huge amount of optimism if you’re on the side of the Citizens. It’s their first game in the knock-out stages of the Champions League and it doesn’t get much tougher than this. Having never played Barcelona in a competitive in match, they don’t even have a vague historical basis on which to build some irrational optimism.
However, having spent just under a decade in La Liga, Manuel Pellegrini has substantially more experience of facing the Catalan side than the club he now manages. During spells with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, he got to do battle with Barca more than most. Not always with great success.
But does this experience improve City’s chances of upsetting the Spanish giants? Does Pellegrini somehow have the magic elixir which can undo the Blaugrana? The Paddy Power Blog has delved into the history books to examine Pellegrini’s overall record against Barcelona and come up with a conclusive answer – maybe.
First and foremost, Pellegrini has enjoyed success against Barca in the past. He has notched up a few wins and like Kerry Katona with a kebab, no-one can take it away from him. But overall, it’s a mixed bag with reasons for fans to harbour either deluded over-confidence or go hiding behind the sofa – depending on how they feel.
In short, Pellegrini has:
- won 18.2% of his games against Barcelona
- lost 14 of his 22 matches against them
- failed to beat them in his last 12 attempts (D2 L10)
On one hand, there is cause for hope. The manager’s record suggests he knows how to beat Barcelona. On the other hand, the record only suggests genuine hope if he has a time machine all set to go back to the 2007/08 season when they were whimpering their way to the end of the Ronaldinho and Rijkaard era, before they became Messi and Guardiola’s providers of football porn.
During his five seasons with Villarreal, the Engineer masterminded four wins, three draws and five defeats against Barcelona, including a resounding 3-0 victory the first time he faced them and a win at the Camp Nou. As records against Barca go, that’s pretty good.
As ever, there are mitigating circumstances – namely that this period was pretty much the high point of Villarreal’s history in contrast to a comparatively low period in their recent history – and in the case of Barca, ‘not beating everyone 6-0 each week’ kind of constitutes a low period.
Since leaving the Yellow Submarine however, the record has looked less promising. During his one season in charge of Real Madrid, he suffered two El Clasico defeats from two attempts, failing to score a goal. Despite amassing the most points not to win a La Liga title with 96 points (Barca had 99), Pellegrini was booted out the door.
He resurfaced in Malaga, which was the ideal preparation for spending vast sums of Petro-dollars. In Andalusia, his labours continued. Despite the resources at his disposal, he failed to beat Barca and shipped some heavy defeats in the process. They conceded four goals in five of those eight games Admittedly, this was at a time when Barca were playing some of the best football the world has ever seen, but one draw and plenty of hammerings from eight games is still a disappointing return.
There are valid reasons to think it can be different with City though. Since arriving last summer, he has brought in the players he wants and instituted his style on the team, something he couldn’t manage in the overly knee-jerk pressure cauldron of the Bernabau.
He doesn’t seem to have an implicit know-how of how to beat Barca, but he does have a load of top quality players. That could come in pretty handy too.