Former Liverpool midfielder and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp believes returning attacking midfielder Samir Nasri holds the key to success in Manchester City’s up coming clash with Barcelona in the Champions League.
The 26-year-old attacker made his first appearance for the Citizens in over a month on Saturday, returning to the City side that beat Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup clash at the Etihad.
Nasri scored City’s second goal to knock the Londoners out of the cup after coming on in the 61st minute to replace forward Stevan Jovetic who opened the scoring in the first half.
The former Arsenal midfielder has scored 6 goals and made 6 assists in all competitions this term under Manuel Pellegrini after falling out of favour under previous manager Roberto Mancini at the Etihad last season.
City have never played the Spanish champions in a competitive match before this Tuesday’s clash at the Etihad and Nasri’s previous experience in the Champions League and, specifically against the Catalans, may well be the difference over the tie.
Jamie Redknapp certainly seems to believe so – the Sky Sports pundit believes Nasri’s return from his ligament injury has come just at the right time for Pellegrini who will see the return to fitness of Fernandinho but is likely to be without the injured top goal scorer at the club Sergio Aguero.
“If they [Manchester City] believe that they can win this game, it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if they knocked them [Barcelona] out,” said Redknapp.
“I think defensively, you need a big night from people like Vincent Kompany. That’s obviously a must. The other player I look at for Man City, if they’re going to win this, he’s one of those sort of players that goes a little bit unnoticed but we’ve seen how much they’ve missed him in the big games and that’s Samir Nasri.”
Nasri’s performances this term have been dynamic and charged with energy and impetus to get forward to create and score goals – prior to his injury, City had won no less than 9 of their previous 10 games with him involved in the team in the Premier League.
Since his injury in mid-January, City have won two, lost one and drawn two of their league games but his return and goal on Sunday bodes well for their chances against last season’s semifinalists in the Champions League.
“He [Nasri] is such an important player for this Man City team and before his injury was one of their best players,” he added.
Nasri has played against Barcelona with Arsenal on four occasions and been on the losing side twice, drawn once and won once. The French ace assisted the winning goal scored by Andrei Arshavin in the game Arsenal won 2-1 at the Emirates back in March 2011 as well as clinching the assist for the Gunners only goal at the Camp Nou when they lost 3-1 in the second leg last time the two teams met in the Champions League.
Prior to that he was involved in the North Londoners’ 2-2 draw at the Emirates with the Catalans back in April 2010 at the quarterfinals stage and featured in the 4-1 defeat at the Camp Nou in the second leg.
His experience as well as his quality will be huge boost for Manuel Pellegrini this week ahead of what proposed to be a clash of two titans in the last sixteen.
image: © Brad Tutterow