Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano says the Spanish giants will focus on stopping Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero as they attempt to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
The two sides meet in the Champions League last-16 second leg on Wednesday with Aguero looking to add to his record of 26 goals in 27 club games this season as City attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit.
“He’s so important to their attack,” says Mascherano, who plays with Aguero for Argentina. “He’s one of the top-five forwards in football. We’ll try to limit his space, make it uncomfortable for him.”
Aguero missed the first leg of the last-16 encounter at the Etihad Stadium as Manuel Pellegrini’s side fell 2-0 to the Catalans, after defender Martin Demichelis was sent off for a challenge on Lionel Messi- though replay showed contact was initially made outside the area.
The La Liga champions suffered a third defeat in six league games against Real Valladolid at the weekend – a result which saw them fall four points adrift of leaders Real Madrid – as pressure adds up on coach Gerardo Martino and his players.
But Mascherano insists that the coach deserves more respect and that his track record proves his credentials.
“It would be illogical for me to say if Martino is doing a good job or not,” Mascherano added.
“He may not be a very famous coach, but he has managed for many years, he has not achieved things easily and has worked hard for success.
“Results are one thing, but we should not under-estimate Martino. There is a lack of respect towards him because everything he has done, he has done it himself.
“But we are all to blame, that’s clear. We are the ones who play, not the coach.
“The manager can have ideas, but the players implement the ideas. When it doesn’t work, you don’t point to specific people, it’s a group thing.”
He however admitted that Pellegrini’s men contains individuals capable of upsetting Barca.
Mascherano continued: “We expect City to be very offensive. They need a result, so they will be even more offensive than usual.
“When you face big players, you have to make them feel uncomfortable. We will try to do the same job against City, keep possession and not give them chance to counter-attack and play in the bigger spaces.
“But we have an advantage and we are going to try to make the most of it.
“Tomorrow, we are in the Champions and we have an advantage, so things are not that bad.
“We are four points from the leader in the league and we will think about that on Thursday.
“So let’s not mix things up – things are not that bad.”