Set up Camp with Aguero

Sergio Aguero is too big to score against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday says our Andy Schooler.

Last Updated: 12/03/14 at 19:44 Post Comment

Sergio Aguero: Scored in 16 out of 18 games before his injury

Sergio Aguero: Scored in 16 out of 18 games before his injury

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Manchester City head to Barcelona on Wednesday night but the bookies' odds suggest they might as well not bother.

With City trailing 2-0 from the home leg after a calamitous night which saw them reduced to 10 men and concede a killer late goal, you wouldn't have to go far to find a fan who would happily give his side the night off. After all, they've a backlog of domestic fixtures to fulfil as they play catch-up in the Premier League title race.

However, City haven't been to this stage of the Champions League before and you can be assured that they will at least give it a go. As captain Vincent Kompany said on Tuesday, City "don't have anything to lose".

Of course, Barca are virtually unbackable in the 'to qualify' market at this stage and are just 3/5 to win a game they can lose by a goal and still qualify. It's a price many will take but I'm looking for something bigger.

There are plenty of large odds about when it comes to siding with City and there are reasons to think they can at least lay a glove on the Spaniards.

When talking about this tie, many football followers have been quick to point out how City were well beaten at home by Bayern Munich at the start of the season without referencing the fact they also won 3-2 against the same outfit - who did name a strong team - in the reverse group fixture.

Given how City surged back into that game from 2-0 down, they actually had the chance to win the group that night. How Manuel Pellegrini, banned from the touchline for Wednesday's match, must rue his miscalculation that his team needed two more goals to do so when they only required one. Had they won 4-2, City would have avoided Barca in the last-16 draw.

In addition, it's also worth thinking back to last season when City were within a few minutes of beating Real Madrid in the Bernabeu but ended up losing 3-2.

Essentially they have the ability to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in Europe which is what they will try to do here.

Expect Barca to enjoy plenty of possession but City will look to hit them on the break, just as Chelsea did in the Nou Camp two years ago to great effect. They certainly have the players to do just that with Yaya Toure's ability to drive from box to box, David Silva's pass-picking skills and Sergio Aguero's clinical eye for goal.

Yes, my critics will tell me City's form is not good - having won 18 of 20 games in an unbeaten run either side of Christmas they've seen won just three of seven - but the same can be said of Barcelona.

Gerardo Martino's team have lost two of their last three games in La Liga, conceding three at Real Sociedad and failing to net at Valladolid at the weekend.

And while they have won 18 of their last 19 home games, an admittedly worrying statistic for a City side needing a victory, they did let in three when losing at the Nou Camp to Valencia last month.

I certainly agree with Kompany's assessment.

''I am looking to the strikers we have - Aguero, (Alvaro) Negredo, (Edin) Dzeko - that is what I want to focus on. We have firepower up front.

''If everything goes well we are capable of hurting Barcelona.

''I would say we have a chance to come here and we don't have anything to lose.

''It is all about that first goal. If we get the lead then I believe the dynamics of the game will change. I am convinced of that."

An obvious problem when it comes to scoring that opener is that City have started slowly in their recent games against Sunderland and Wigan - in the latter they were unable to recover.

It's also a concern that they are down to their fourth-choice centre-back. With Matija Nastasic injured and Martin Demichelis suspended, Joleon Lescott is set to partner Kompany.

I'm not therefore prepared to back City to score the first goal at 2/1, although I do feel they will find the net. I'm not the only one with both teams to score no bigger than 8/13.

With this in mind, the way I'm going to side with City is to back Aguero to score at any time.

You don't keep a player of the Argentine's class down and at as big as 11/4 he looks a huge price. It will be a long time until he's that big in this market again so I suggest you back it while you can.

Aguero scored in 16 of 18 games prior to his recent hamstring injury. It's perhaps not surprising that he's not found the target in his two appearances since he returned but he still has to be considered his side's most likely source of a goal.

Aguero's trickery and ability to find space will already be on the minds of the Barca defenders and with the rust shaken off his boots, he has to be considered a major threat.

Aguero, who has scored four times in 11 previous appearances against the Catalans, is as short as 13/8 elsewhere and I'd certainly rather be backing him to net once over 90 minutes at the price than compatriot Lionel Messi to bag three at quotes as short as 6/1.

The other game of the night sees Paris Saint Germain host Bayer Leverkusen but with the French 4-0 up from the first leg it's hardly of the most interest.

Indeed the hosts are just 2/5 to add a second-leg win - not something that appeals given the likelihood of major players being rested by Laurent Blanc with the tie effectively won.

However, I'm certainly not interested in repeating my approach from the City game and looking for a way to get with the outsiders.

The Germans are a team who somehow managed to concede five to a poor Manchester United side before Christmas, while their form is awful with seven defeats in their last 11. In contrast, PSG have won seven of their last eight.

I expect a home win, whichever players are chosen, but won't be having a bet on the game.

  • Posted at 2135 GMT on 11/03/2014.


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