Man City: bigger than United, better than Barcelona?
Spanish giants are no longer the force they once were, but it won't be easy for City
MANCHESTER CITY are no longer the 'noisy neighbours' of the Ferguson era according to manager Manuel Pellegrini who has declared, on the eve of his club's Champions League clash with Barcelona, that the Citizens are now the biggest club in the city.
Talking ahead of the match at the Etihad tonight, the Chilean aimed a subtle barb at David Moyes's team, who next week face Olympiakos and who arguably have a better chance of making it through to the final eight of the competition.
"If we only consider this season, there is just one club in Manchester and it's ours," announced Pellegrini. "But you cannot forget what United has done in the previous years."
It is also easy to overlook how far Man City have come in recent seasons. The Daily Telegraph reminds readers that City's first ever competitive encounter with Barcelona takes place "almost 15 years to the day since City entertained Macclesfield Town in a League One fixture at Maine Road".
More remarkable still is the fact that the match "is likely to prove the sternest test of the home side's prospects of completing an unprecedented quadruple this season", adds the paper.
Quite how stern the test will be is open to interpretation. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, still limbering down after his latest verbal workout with old sparring partner Arsene Wenger, couldn't help getting involved in the build-up.
The Special One, renowed as a Barcelona-baiter, sagely declared: "This is the worst Barcelona of many, many years."
However, the BBC notes that even defender Gerard Pique admits his team may have lost some of its fear factor. Under Tito Vilanova last season Barca lost 7-0 to Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the competition.
This season the transfer of Brazilian Neymar has been under investigation, and star player Lionel Messi has been out injured for long periods.
However, Barcelona are still a force to be reckoned with. Manchester City have scored a phenomenal 117 goals in all competitions so far this season, but barca have still managed a none-too-shabby 111.
City have stuck to the same attacking gameplan against all-comers, and have come unstuck on occasion - notably against Chelsea last month.
Pellegrini is unlikely to change tack tonight. "In other words [he] wants to beat Barcelona at their own game and, if nothing else, you have to admire his boldness," writes Daniel Taylor of The Guardian. "Yet it does leave a question about whether City might be playing into Barcelona's hands, if it also means Messi has the space to be at his most devastating."