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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Red face for Pep while Messi stars

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shows his frustration during last night’s defeat to his former club Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Pic: Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shows his frustration during last night’s defeat to his former club Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Pic: Reuters

Poor Pep Guardiola had reason to look a more than a bit sheepish at the Nou Camp.

Magician Lionel Messi's calm and wonderful hat-trick will dominate the headlines but so too will Manchester City's ineptitude at the back.

Guardiola has a bee in his bonnet about ball-playing goalkeepers and full-backs in midfield positions.

His dogged insistence that netminders do more than save the day left him looking like a management novice on his return to his old shrine.

His team looked like a circus act even before the kick-off.

Struggle

It was a struggle to get beyond Manchester City's garish away strip and the obvious question - what's wrong with blue and white?

Only a very brave and very committed fan would fork out cash for something that looked like an unhappy mix of the Dutch national team shirt and Barcelona's red and blue.

Not a hint of City blue.

For most of the match, the eye tracked orange men chasing around the pitch trying to stay in touch with sprites.

It was Barcelona and Barca Lite and it didn't take long for the original to establish the pattern of the game and a lead.

Messi had started and finished a move straight from the Nou Camp playbook, one which pleased Enrique and which Guardiola would have easily recognised.

It was a sentimental return for Guardiola and an always uncomfortable comparison for Enrique with what went before.

Everywhere you look there's another significant battle of two managers with history and stature.

At the start of the week, events at Anfield were pitched as new v old, Klopp v Mourinho and this one was about Pep and Luis.

Manchester United's point against Liverpool proved that Mourinho has lost none of his ability to reduce another team to the opposition he wants to face and was one in the eye for those ready to write him off.

This easy win for Barcelona will boost Enrique too. Struggling in La Liga this season, they looked very comfortable in the Champions League environment.

Still they had only that goal from Messi and indeed, suffered a few defensive scares of their own to make Enrique sweat before Claudio Bravo, another back among his own, came off his line and instead of finding Row Z, gave it straight to Luis Suarez.

He blocked the subsequent shot with his hands outside the penalty area. Red card.

Reduced to ten, City crumbled, Messi danced and the net rattled three more times, the final one from Neymar who also missed a penalty. Rout.

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