Pep Guardiola: Messi and Neymar ‘almost unstoppable’ for Barca but Man City must try

Richard Jolly reports from Pep Guardiola's press conference ahead of the Manchester City v Barcelona contest in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fields questions during his press conference on Tuesday. Oli Scarff / AFP / October 31, 2016
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Manchester City v Barcelona, Champions League, Tuesday night, 11.45pm, beIN Sports 11HD

Pep Guardiola admitted that Manchester City may need to produce a "perfect" performance against Barcelona in what he accepted could already be a Champions League final for them as he conceded that defeat could open up the possibility of elimination in the group stages.

The Catalan won two actual Champions League finals as Barcelona manager, in 2009 and 2011, and has reached at least the semi-finals in each of his seven previous seasons in the competition.

But City, after beating Borussia Monchengladbach, drew 3-3 against Celtic before losing 4-0 to Barcelona, meaning last season’s semi-finalists are in a precarious position in Group C ahead of Tuesday night’s rematch with Luis Enrique’s side.

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“It is not a final for them,” said Guardiola. “It is a final for us. There are just three games left. We dropped two points in Glasgow and we need to recover those points. We need to play almost perfect.”

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in the Camp Nou while Neymar was also on target and Guardiola feels City could struggle to halt either.

“The two wide players for Barcelona are almost unstoppable,” he said. Messi’s hat-trick two weeks ago was his 37th for the Spanish champions and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner boasts 467 goals for his only club.

Guardiola regards the Argentinian as the best player ever but hinted that left winger Neymar has the potential to pose City more problems.

He is without both senior right-backs, with Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta injured, meaning he faces a choice between teenager Pablo Maffeo and midfielder Fernando, who occupied an unfamiliar role in Saturday’s 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Barcelona will be without the injured trio of Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique plus the suspended Jeremy Mathieu but Guardiola countered: “We have not got right-backs. We have one that has recently played there and one that is 19.”

City have lost all five previous meetings with Barcelona by an aggregate score of 11-2 and go into the game at the Etihad Stadium without the goalkeeper they signed from the Camp Nou, the suspended Claudio Bravo.

Willy Caballero, who saved a penalty from Neymar two weeks ago, will deputise and received a vote of confidence from Guardiola. “I have no doubts about him,” he said.

But Bravo’s dismissal did underline the importance of keeping their discipline. City have been reduced to 10 men in four of their games and Guardiola said: “[To play] 10 against 11 is almost impossible. You have to learn.”

Nolito has already received one red card this season for a head-butt and risked another at the Hawthorns and City’s former Barcelona winger believes his conduct has to improve.

“I had no intention to hurt an opponent,” he said. “I have to show an example for other players and to children.”

Guardiola sprung a surprise by leaving Sergio Aguero on the bench but is set to restore the striker, who scored two goals against West Brom, to the starting 11.

It will prompt comparisons with Luis Suarez, scorer of 54 goals for Barcelona last season, but Guardiola was keen to differentiate between the two prolific South Americans.

“What I want is Aguero to achieve his huge qualities as much as possible,” he explained. “I cannot ask Sergio to do what Suarez does. It would be unfair.”

Nolito added: “I think he’s one of the best strikers in the world and it’s a pride to have in the team and we hope he has one of those days where he scores lots of goals.”

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