Manchester City break the Barcelona curse, finally

Why Man City’s 3-1 victory over Barcelona on Tuesday night at the Etihad Stadium is an important step in the club’s future


Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan (right) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the Champions League group C football match between City and Barcelona on 1 November, 2016. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan (right) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the Champions League group C football match between City and Barcelona on 1 November, 2016. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP

Let’s get rid of the facts first. Irrespective of the result at the Etihad Stadium Tuesday night, both Barcelona and Manchester City look the most likely teams from Group C to go through to the round of 16 of the Champions League this season. And Barcelona did beat City 4-0 two weeks ago at home.

What is so special about the 3-1 result in favour of the home team at the Etihad Stadium then?

It is the first win in six meetings for the English team against the Catalans, in the course of which coach Pep Guardiola, who made Barcelona the envy of the football world before joining City, defeated the team he built over the years one player and one victory at a time. After winning club and European honours with the club as a young midfielder, Guardiola led Barcelona to 14 major trophies between 2008 and 2012, including two Champions League titles.

So it was a statement Guardiola needed to make; that he was more than just one good idea and that he could still build teams that could beat “the best team in the world”.

It was a step that the English team needed to take to make themselves believe that they belonged to the stage, Europe’s biggest; and go toe to toe against, and possibly defeat, the biggest names in European football.

“We don’t play against Barca, we play against us; against our tradition and what we have to do,” AFP quoted Guardiola as saying after the match.

“The (first) 38 minutes (shows) we cannot compete with the best teams in the world,” he said.

“This club was 25, 30 years out of Europe. These kind of clubs—Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and so on—are playing ever year. They were at home. You need time. I know people don’t have time. I think the club gives us time. But maybe today is a good step to say once in our lives we play against the best team and we compete against them.

“We are not ready. Because they are 25 years playing that way, we are three or four months. Sometimes we have to compete a little bit in a different way.

“Of course now they realise, ‘Wow, we (beat) the best team,’ so we are able to do that.

“For future generations, they’re going to realise, ‘Wow, these guys were able to beat the best team and we have to do it again.’”

The 3-1 result at home might not have much significance as far as the Champions League goes, but it sure will go a long way in making City the team Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan wanted it to be when he brought the bags of gold from Abu Dhabi to buy the club.

More From Livemint