Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino admits their Champions League opponents, Manchester City, may have improved in many aspects, but stresses they “are not a mini-Barcelona’.
The Etihad stadium outfit reached the knock-out stage of Europe’s top tier football for the first time under new Chilean manager, Manuel Pellegrini, and faces a round of 16 tie against the reigning La Liga champions at home on Tuesday night.
The third-placed Premier League club have scored 68 league goals in 25 games so far this season, the highest in the English top flight, and the Argentine, whose side are top of the La Liga, accepts their opponents’ free-scoring style of football is akin to the Baulgranas’.
“They do play a similar style to us, but they are not a mini-Barcelona or a mini-anyone else,” says Martino.
“I think they are one of the greatest teams in the world.”
Argentine striker Sergio Aguero has been ruled out of the crucial tie with a hamstring injury suffered in a 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in January.
The striker, who has scored 26 of City’s goals in 25 appearances, had only returned from an eight-game hiatus with a calf injury before suffering his latest setback.
Martino believes City’s squad has improved tremendously with great names “from all over the world” that one player’s absence couldn’t be termed an Achilles heel.
“They have great Spanish players such as Jesus Navas and david Silva, but it is not only Spanish players,” added Martino.
“They have great players from all over the world such as Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho.”
Martino stressed the closeness of the tie, the first competitive meeting between both teams, but stressed Barca’s resilience will prevail.
“For the last six seasons Barcelona have made it to the semi-finals and the fans are used to that.
“It will be difficult to understand if we don’t go through but it is the tightest tie of all.”