Barcelona: Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano expects Argentine international teammate Sergio Aguero to pose the biggest threat to his side as Manchester City try to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
Aguero scored six times against Barcelona in his five seasons with Atletico Madrid before joining City in 2011, but missed the first meeting between the sides at the Etihad three weeks ago through injury.
The 25-year-old will lead the line as the English side try to become the first ever team in the Champions League era to come back from a 2-0 defeat at home in the first leg and Mascherano is anticipating Manuel Pellegrini’s attack- minded side will go for it from the start.
“I think we are going to see Man City go all out to attack. That is the way they normally play and, with the result, they’ll need to do that more than ever,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.
“Sergio is someone I know well and for me is one of the five best strikers in the world. Given space, he is the type of player who can destroy you — so we have to ensure he doesn’t get that space and doesn’t feel comfortable.”
Despite having one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and booked their place in the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid next month, Barca have received fierce criticism in recent weeks after suffering three La Liga defeats in six games.
A 1-0 loss to lowly Valladolid on Saturday left them four points adrift of leaders Real Madrid with just 11 games remaining.
However, with the chance of a treble still alive, Mascherano believes the criticism should wait until the end of the season.
“At the beginning of the season, you do think about how the months ahead are going to go and your dream is to be in a situation like this, fighting in three competitions.
“It is March now, there are still about two months of the season left and we have a great chance of achieving great things.
“Wait until we are dead to kill us, but we are not dead yet.”
One of the Catalans’ major problems in recent weeks has been the inability of four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and summer signing Neymar to combine upfront.
However, Barca boss Gerardo Martino insisted that the South American duo just need more playing time together as both have been blighted by injuries this season.
“Messi and Neymar haven’t had much chance to play together due to injuries. They played early on in the season and I though they played very well.
“Maybe in last two or three games they haven’t had same connection. We have seen the two associate well and not so well, but that is normal in football. Just because you have two of the best players in the world, doesn’t mean they will automatically work well together.”
Martino has named a 23-man squad for City’s visit with all his senior players available as Andres Iniesta returns after missing the Valladolid defeat due to personal reasons.