Pep Guardiola’s return to the club that he enjoyed so much success with as a player and manager didn’t turn out how he would have hoped, but there was more to the game than the score line suggests. Manchester City started the game in a brave manner, pressing Barcelona high up the pitch and limiting their options. Barcelona’s backline struggled with injuries, forcing a few first half changes, but City were unable to capitalize. Instead, a horrendous error by City keeper Claudio Bravo would turn the game on its head, laying the foundation for Lionel Messi to once again step into the spotlight and steal the show.
Here are the ratings from the match:
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 3/5
Saved Gundogan’s close range attempt with a dive to his left and kept out Nolito’s chance with his feet in the first half. Was called into action again to keep out a well struck effort from De Bruyne and covered his half of the goal well when Kolarov hit a free-kick from just outside the area. A convincing display.
Javier Mascherano 3/5
Played in a slightly uncomfortable role at right-back but put in a decent shift. Conservative with his positioning and didn’t often venture too far forward. Solid with his passing and tackling, his challenge on Raheem Sterling at the end of the first half ensured a potential City counter-attack was prevented after Messi’s square pass was picked out.
Samuel Umtiti 3.5/5
Solid showing from the Frenchman, one which became easier for him when City were reduced to 10. Showing huge potential at just 22 years of age.
Gerard Pique 2/5
Mostly untroubled until his injury, the effects of which were obvious when Gundogan got past him easily inside the box. He was substituted moments after that, just before half time.
Jordi Alba N/A
Came into the game with an injury concern and the gamble by Luis Enrique to play him didn’t pay off, substituting him some 10 minutes in.
Sergio Busquets 2.5/5
Shielded the defence nicely with five tackles, more than any other player on the pitch. Made good decisions with his passing, rarely missing one.
Ivan Rakitic 2.5/5
City’s midfield worked hard to close him and his fellow midfielders down, somewhat nullifying his effectiveness. He was largely subdued as a result, at least in the early goings of the first half, with his passing relatively inaccurate. He did chip in with a few tackles, though, and contributed at the other end of the pitch with one key pass and two successful dribbles.
Andres Iniesta 3/5
Kept things ticking over nicely without making a huge impact. Registered 90% accuracy from his 31 total passes, higher than anyone else on the pitch who played at least 15 minutes. Got the assist for Messi’s second goal.
Grew as the game went on. Glided past Otamendi with ease on a few occasions out on the left, and missed a clear-cut chance when he got on the end of Rakitic’s cross, only for Caballero to make a point-blank save. Looked to rectify that by stepping up to take a late penalty but was once again stopped by Caballero. Finally got his goal when Otamendi and Stones’ concentration seemed to expire after Messi played him in. Also made the most dribbles of the match with six.
Luis Suarez 2.5/5
Full of energy and showed good movement, but was often thwarted with a last-ditch tackle or save. Selfless play to square up Messi inside the area after Gundogan’s stray pass.
Lionel Messi 4.5/5
The difference between the two sides. Beat both goalkeepers on the night, first by having the awareness and anticipation to keep moving after he tried to put Iniesta in. He reaped the rewards with a signature finish, before grabbing his brace with a near post shot from outside the box. Tapped in from close range for his hat trick and won a penalty late on. Man of the match.
Lucas Digne (on for Jordi Alba 10th minute) 2.5/5
Ended up playing most of the game after Alba’s early injury. Struggled at times to deal with Sterling, but City’s attack as a whole wasn’t potent enough to seriously threaten on too many occasions.
Jeremy Mathieu (on for Gerard Pique 40th minute) 1/5
Awful cameo from the Frenchman, showing really poor decision making. Booked for a challenge on Sterling just outside the area in the second half, and then lunged in on the Englishman once again after he used his pace to get beyond the defender on the flank, levelling the playing field as he was shown his second yellow card.
Andre Gomes (on for Andres Iniesta 78th minute) N/A
The ex-Valencia man came on as a late substitute when the sting had been taken out of the game.
Claudio Bravo 1/5
Went down early after Messi picked up possession some 10 yards out, but in truth there wasn’t much the Chilean goalkeeper could do to stop him from that range. Sharp reflexes to keep out Luis Suarez from close range at the end of the first half, but made the wrong decision to come off his line when the Uruguayan was put through in the second half. Got to the ball first but his pass was sloppy, playing it straight into the path of Suarez. Correctly sent off for blocking a clear shot on goal with his hands outside the area.
Pablo Zabaleta 2.5/5
Committed to the cause with four tackles, one interception and one blocked shot, but lasted less than an hour on the pitch, withdrawn for Gael Clichy. One of City’s more composed players with his passing, registering 86.4% passing accuracy.
John Stones 2/5
Gave the ball away on a few occasions and didn’t look as convincing as his centre half partner throughout the 90 minutes. Got on the end of a David Silva free-kick unmarked in the box in the first half, but headed wide of the target. Let Gundogan’s back pass go behind him in the lead up to Messi’s third, but wasn’t helped by the quality of the pass. Made a quality last ditch tackle on Suarez inside the area, but didn’t cover himself in glory for the 4th goal when Neymar danced around him inside the box.
Nicolas Otamendi 2.5/5
He was slow to react to Fernandinho’s slip inside the area before the opening goal, but overall it was a good showing from the Argentine centre-half. He read the game well by being in the right place at the right time on numerous occasions. Switched out to right-back as Guardiola had to reshuffle his defence following the sending off, but he didn’t look the same playing that role. Made more defensive contributions than any other player on the pitch, with four tackles, five interceptions and three clearances.
Aleksandar Kolarov 2/5
Lost possession in the build-up to the opener, allowing Messi the space to cut-in from the right and run at City’s centre-halves. Moved to centre-back when City went down to 10 men and had his blushes spared when Caballero saved the penalty that he gave away by lunging in on Messi. Made four interceptions and four clearances.
An unlucky slip invited an unmarked Lionel Messi to stroll into the box and open the scoring for the Catalonians, which went against the momentum that City had built early on by smartly pressing Barcelona. Overall, he was one of City’s better players, accurate in distribution and made four tackles.
Ilkay Gundogan 2/5
Had Manchester City’s best chance of the first half, darting past a soon-to-be replaced Gerard Pique before ter Stegen kept him out with a reflex save to his left. Made a relatively unforced error leading to goal when a back pass was intercepted by Suarez when options were restricted with just 10 men on the pitch. Not great with his passing, at just 74.2% accuracy, but offered something in defensive phases with four tackles and one interception.
David Silva 2.5/5
Classy on the ball as always and has added a bite to his game, not afraid to get stuck in. He did just that on Gerard Pique; his international teammate had to be substituted shortly after the challenge. Placed a sumptuous free-kick right onto the head of Stones, who headed wide. Perhaps a proper threat in-behind would have aided his and City’s cause, as Aguero’s absence meant City had no natural number nine.
Raheem Sterling 3/5
Had the edge over both full-backs he faced on the night and found another gear after City went down to 10 men. He was central to almost everything City did right in the second half, roaming into space and making runs into the channels to keep defenders honest. Got past Mathieu with ease before the Barca centre half was sent off. Unlucky not to get a penalty after his cross hit Digne’s hand. City’s best player.
The Spaniard would have been eager to impress against his old side but made little impact, well shackled by Mascherano. Was sacrificed by Guardiola after Bravo’s sending off.
Kevin De Bruyne 2/5
Spearheaded the attack in an auxiliary centre forward position. Looked more threatening when he timed his runs from deep to try to get in-behind Barcelona’s injury-riddled defence, which he started doing with more frequency in the second half. Gave the ball away in the lead up to Messi’s second, and nearly made up for it by smashing a low drive after Gundogan put him through, only for ter Stegen to keep him out. The performance was reasonable, but Guardiola would be wise to add another striker to his ranks soon.
Willy Caballero (on for Nolito 57th minute) 2.5/5
Wouldn’t have expected to play a part in the match, but was reliable when called upon even though he conceded three goals. He wasn’t helped by his defence as they carelessly gave the ball away in the lead up to Messi’s second goal. Caballero could do nothing to stop Messi picking up his hat trick following a back pass, but then kept out Neymar with a point-blank save. He thwarted the Brazilian again soon after, saving his penalty, but could do nothing on the third time of asking as Neymar waltzed through City’s penalty area before adding Barca’s 4th goal.
Gael Clichy (on for Pablo Zabaleta 57th minute) 2.5/5
Did a reasonable job, but the situation in which he was brought on meant the full-back was rarely afforded the opportunity to bomb up the flank as he would have liked.
Sergio Aguero (on for Ilkay Gundogan 79th minute) N/A
Came on with about 10 minutes to go, the game well and truly over already.