Was there another attempted nibble by El Mordedor on Tuesday at Etihad Stadium? Luis Suarez categorically denied that he had tried to bite Martin Demichelis during Barcelona’s 2-1 victory, and UEFA has already confirmed it will not take further action in the matter after German referee Felix Brych saw no need to note the incident in his match report. Replays showed the Argentine defender’s arm swinging in Suarez’s direction, but the lack of conclusive evidence makes the accusation more likely a matter of the Uruguayan’s recidivist history than a substantive claim.
Manchester City might wish that it was true, however, because there’s likely no other way that Suarez would possibly miss the second leg in Barcelona after scoring both goals for the visitors in Manchester. Vincent Kompany was the scapegoat on the first goal, as he tried to head clear the delivery by Lionel Messi into the box — and instead deflected the ball directly to Suarez, who cut the tight angle with his left foot into the lower left corner past Joe Hart. The second came with Kompany failing to mark Suarez as Jordi Alba threaded the ball through; this time Suarez used his right foot to beat Hart for the second.
The result could have been uglier, however. Sergio Aguero pulled one back in the 69th minute, and Barcelona missed several choice opportunities both before and after Gael Clichy was sent off with his second yellow card after a hard foul on Dani Alves in the 74th minute. Alves would be substituted for Adriano in the 75th minute, booting a water bottle in frustration as he left the touchline for the day. Manchester City was especially blessed when Hart saved Messi’s penalty attempt in stoppage time.
So now Manchester City is down by a goal, forced not only to win in Camp Nou but to either win by two or more goals or to pull off a 3-2 victory or higher. The two away goals by Barcelona, in addition to the victory itself, set the bar really high for the reigning Barclays Premier League champions in the return match. It isn’t entirely insurmountable, but there are several things standing in the way of that success.
Kompany has looked nothing like a world-class defender lately, and Clichy will be unavailable after receiving the red card late in the first leg. In general Manchester City hasn’t looked incredible lately, large victories over Stoke and Newcastle United notwithstanding. Before those back-to-back wins, City was 0-3-2 in its previous five matches, a January slump that undersells what should be a strong roster. They haven’t won a match against any of the other current top-five teams in the Premier League since taking the Mancunian derby on November 2, and they had to win both of their last matches against Bayern Munich and Roma to move from last place to runner-up in their group.
Barcelona, on the other hand, looks dangerous at the moment. Their loss to Malaga on Saturday prior to the Champions League fixture was their first defeat since January 4. Over the same period of time that City went 2-3-2, the Catalans won 11 straight in league and cup play. Suarez has integrated well into the Barcelona front line, and all signs point to another win at home for the blaugrana. No matter the margin, Barcelona is set to advance by at least two goals on aggregate for its eighth straight trip to the quarterfinals.