Champions League: Manchester City nowhere near Barcelona, says Phil Neville
Manchester City are “nowhere near” Barcelona and will struggle to win the Champions League this season, says former Everton captain Phil Neville.
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as the Spanish champions beat City 4-0 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday – the visitors’ heaviest defeat in the competition.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off after the break, and a number of errors proved costly for Pep Guardiola’s side.
“City are nowhere near where Guardiola wants them to be,” said Neville.
This was the first time City conceded had four times in a Champions League match, and another miserable return to the Nou Camp for Guardiola.
During his four-year tenure as Barca boss, the Catalan won 14 trophies, but he has now twice lost heavily to the Spaniards – the other a 3-0 first-leg semi-final defeat with Bayern Munich in May 2015.
“Barcelona are only at 80% of where they can be and this shows Manchester City are nowhere near Barcelona and will probably struggle to win the Champions League this year,” added Neville on BBC Radio 5 live.
City have not won any of their past four matches but are top of the Premier League and lost only one of Guardiola’s first 11 games after he took charge in the summer.
The 45-year-old said his side needed more time to be capable of challenging at Barcelona’s level.
“We lost the game 4-0, but we are a new club, we are getting to know each other,” he said. “We are a club that for 35 years was not in Europe
“We came here and played with huge personality but it is always difficult to play Barcelona with 11. With 10 the game was over. Until then the game was open.”
Guardiola will not change sweeper/keeper style
City were trailing only 1-0 when Bravo attempted to play out from the back, only to gift the ball to Luis Suarez.
Stranded outside his area, the Chilean deliberately handled Suarez’s lob towards goal.
Guardiola, who brought Bravo in and loaned out England international Joe Hart to Torino, said: “There will be no change.
“Football is a game of mistakes. Of course he knows what he did, but he has a lot of experience and he’s one of best goalkeepers in last 10 years, so I don’t have doubts about him.
“Until the last day of my career as a coach I will try to play from our goalkeeper.
“Sometimes there are mistakes and sometimes you have to kick the ball out but most of the time, when we play good, it starts from there.”
Are City closer to Barca than they were?
City are accustomed to losing to the five-time European champions. They were beaten in all four of their encounters when Guardiola’s predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, was in charge, including elimination in the last 16 in 2014 and 2015.
They were marginally the better side in the first half this time – they made only 30 fewer passes than the hosts and had an almost identical passing accuracy (78.4% to Barcelona’s 78.6%).
Had John Stones, unchallenged in the box, headed home David Silva’s free-kick to level before the break the second half might have unfolded differently, but once Bravo was sent off their fate was sealed.
Former Manchester United defender Neville, 39, added: “City have still got a way to go. Their players were giving the ball away, not following the instructions of Guardiola.
“There are better teams in Europe than Barcelona this season but they were far better than Manchester City.”
|Pep’s City slow after fast start|
|24 Sep: Swansea 1-3 Manchester City||Four points clear at the top of the Premier League|
|28 Sep: Celtic 3-3 Manchester City||City slip off Barca’s pace in the Champions League|
|2 Oct: Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City||Premier League lead down to one point|
|15 Oct: Manchester City 1-1 Everton||Premier League lead down to goal difference|
|19 Oct: Barcelona 4-0 Manchester City||Five points off Barca in Group C|
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