In adidas Football's latest look behind the scenes of European football, Gamedayplus puts Arsenal star Kieran Gibbs' Champions League chant knowledge to the test, speaks to Atletico Madrid star Koke and brings the irreverent SkillTwins' unique style to the screen.
The Champions League last 16 continues in earnest on Tuesday with arguably the pick of the ties as Manchester City renew their rivalry with Barcelona, who knocked them out of the competition at the same stage last season.
To gain an insight into the mindset of the fans we asked members of the respective UAE Supporters Clubs to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.
Do you agree or have they missed the mark? Use #360Fans to share with us your thoughts.
Darren Ball – Abu Dhabi Blues
The January blues have been cast aside, and Manchester City have seemingly kicked into gear at just the right time. After beating Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on January 4, City went on an abysmal run of five winless games that included 2-0 home losses to Arsenal in the Premier League and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.
However, a 4-1 victory at Stoke sparked the boys back into life and the weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle was a great boost ahead of Barcelona’s visit. Yaya Toure looked exceptional against the Magpies – his asence through suspension will be a major blow – while with Wilfried Bony waiting in the wings, Edin Dzeko certainly stepped up to the plate with a sublime finish. Stevan Jovetic can perhaps feel a little hard done by with his exclusion from the Champions League squad, but Bony looks a dangerous threat off the bench and a welcome addition.
— Edin Džeko (@EdDzeko) February 22, 2015
It’s almost like role reversals between City and Barca as Luis Enrique’s side had been on the crest of a wave until a shock loss to Manuel Pellegrini’s old club, Malaga, at the weekend. Confidence is rising that City can finally reach the last-eight of the Champions League and simultaneously avenge last year’s last-16 elimination at the hands of Barca.
City will need to maintain the attacking approach they’ve showed in recent Premier League fixtures if they are going to advance into the last eight and are certainly capable of beating anyone, even the mighty Barca, over two legs.
LIKELY MAN CITY XI: Hart; Zabaletta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Yaya, Nasri, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero
MAN CTY PLAYER TO WATCH: Navas, Silva and Nasri can provide plenty of ammunition but it doesn’t take a tactical genius to work out who will be City’s No1 goal threat. Sergi Aguero is well-known to Barca but his strength and finishing prowess will be key to City progressing in this tie.
WHERE TO WATCH: The Abu Dhabi Blues, the only official supporters club of Manchester City in the UAE will be watching the game at McGettigans AUH.
Barcelona visit the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in what is arguably the most interesting of the Champions League last-16 ties. The recent weekend brought contrasting returns for both clubs, leaving things finely poised ahead of the match.
After the shock defeat to David Moyes’ Real Sociedad on January 4, Barca turned a corner. Six league victories in a row saw not just wins but dominant performances, with the three main men – Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez – all reaching top form. On top of all that, the Blaugrana knocked Atletico Madrid out of the Copa del Rey and beat Villarreal in the first leg of the semi-final.
As well as Barca’s up-top triumvirate, the midfield when populated by Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta was working well, with Luis Enrique sometimes rotating a bit more using Rafinha and sometimes Javier Mascherano in midfield. At the back, Barca also looked solid with Gerard Pique’s recent resurgence key.
On Saturday, however, Barca reprised the Anoeta debacle – only this time at Camp Nou. Just as they had done against Sociedad, an early goal was conceded against Malaga ,Dani Alves’ glaring mistake gifting the visitors a goal. Once again, Barca’s attempts to turn around a game with well over an hour to go proved sterile, with a worrying lack of chances created.
Barça always seem to swing from one extreme to another. A week ago it was all about the possibility of a Treble and now the City game is being prepared for with apprehension after the Malaga defeat. The Champions League trip Manchester could be a pivotal moment in Barça’s season. If they get a good result it will make fans believe that the Malaga fiasco was an accident, but if City get a good result it could open up another crisis in Catalunya.
Barcelona’s record against City is good and a repeat of last season’s victory at the Etihad Stadium would be most welcome for Blaugrana fans. It won’t be easy though – City won 5-0 win at the weekend and the return of former Baça player Yaya Toure is another interesting subplot. Força Barça!
PREDICTION: Manchester City 2-2 Barcelona.
BARCELONA PLAYER TO WATCH: Can it ever be anyone else other than Messi? Ivan Rakitic, if he plays, might be a key player but Messi remains king. He has scored 14 goals and provided seven assists in the 12 games played in 2015 so far. Apart from a lacklustre performance on Saturday in which he did not score at Camp Nou for the first time in 10 games, he has been near his best. Last year a piercing run from him which ended in a penalty and a red card for Martin DeMichelis was the catalyst for the rest of the tie.
LIKELY BARCELONA XI: Ter Stegen; Alba Pique Mascherano Alves; Rakitic Busquets Iniesta; Suarez Neymar Messi.
WHERE TO WATCH: The Barca Penya normally watches the matches at Sevilles in Wafi. Cafe Villa Barcelona is our sister venue on Sheikh Zayed rRoad for those more inclined to smoke shisha while watching the game.
Luis Enrique talks ahead of Barcelona's Champions League clash against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.