'The Best Team on the Planet'

31 Jan, 2014 10:51 AM GMT

After their 5-1 drubbing two nights ago, Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood hailed Manchester City as, ‘the best team on the planet’. Or at least, ‘certainly the best team in the Premier League’. Manchester City undoubtedly looked the part. 66% possession, 24 shots on goal and an 88% pass completion rate. A fantastic away performance against a Tottenham team previously in fine form. Nevertheless, two hours after Sherwood had provided us with the quote of the night in London, a certain team from Catalunya completed their own trouncing, with a deluge of goals against 8th place Levante. The cup match also ended 5-1 and the diminutive Argentinian didn’t even step on the pitch. Barcelona managed 80% possession, had a 91% pass completion rate and limited their opponents to 0 shots on target (Levante’s goal was an own goal). How do you say, ‘the best team on the planet’ in Spanish?

On the 18th February, Manchester City face Barcelona in what is sure to be an absolute cracker. In the coming weeks the hype will reach a climax. A plethora of pre match predictions will inundate discussion boards and websites, with your average Joe (or José) and experts alike getting involved. So why don’t we beat the rush?

In terms of formations, if Manchester City stick to their guns, then there will be a mismatch in midfield. Pellegrini and his team of foreign stars (Joe Hart the only Englishman in the starting eleven last night) line up with the traditionally English 4-4-2 formation. Barcelona on the other hand, have fomented their success on the fashionable 4-3-3. I would be very surprised if Pellegrini doesn’t add an extra midfielder to try to match Barcelona in possession. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho have formed a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield, but at the same they haven’t come up against a midfield trio with the quality of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Pellegrini will want to be brave, and rightly so given that the first leg is at home, but there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity…especially when the away goal rule and Barcelona are involved.

It will also be imperative that City pressure Barcelona as much as they did against Tottenham. The hosts weren’t given an inch to breathe, and as such struggled to create any real clear cut chances. Two weeks ago Atletico Madrid held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw. What stood out was the Catalunyans struggle to cope with Atletico’s pressure in the attacking half. Barcelona carved out nine chances against Atletico’s six. Opportunities however, were created from individual skill rather than clever interchanges, synonymous with Barcelona in recent years. If City can pressure Barcelona like they did against Tottenham and at the same time contain Messi, then there is a real possibility that they can head to the Camp Nou on the 12th March with no away goals against them. Needless to say, many have tried it and many have failed.

Bayern Munich, holders of the FIFA World Club Championship are perhaps the rightful owners of the ‘Tim Sherwood Best Team on the Planet’ acclaim (sponsored by ‘Licking Wounds’?). Yet, Manchester City are putting themselves up for nomination with performances such as that of two night's ago. Can they maintain this form? Will they be able to cope with Messi and Co? All will be revealed in around two weeks’ time. Wow I’m excited…