City get the perfect preparation for revenge mission
Man City 5 Newcastle 0
With Manchester City targeting Champions League revenge against one of football's true heavyweights tomorrow night, only time will tell whether Newcastle United helped or hindered by performing like a football equivalent of Audley Harrison ahead of the visit of Barcelona.
Only so much confidence can be gained by flooring an incompetent opponent, as City did to Newcastle, but when Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar land in Manchester, it will do no harm to the Premier League champions to have Barcelona's scouts dissecting a five-goal victory, regardless of the opposition.
Success breeds confidence, it can also generate trepidation in opponents, and a year on from suffering a 4-1 aggregate defeat against Barcelona at the same last-16 stage of the competition last season, belief is growing within the City camp.
"The next game is a massive one now and it's one of those whereby, if you have a good day, it can be a special night," Vincent Kompany, the City captain, said.
"I think everyone is ready for it. Barcelona are a special team with special players, but I think their ability is not about hurting you all game - you can have tougher games when you go to Stoke City.
"It's about the fact they can decide a game within a second because they have more players than anyone else in the world who can finish games with a touch of magic. But I've come into football to play those games. From the moment I'm feeling reluctant to play in these games I'm not in the right place. This is what I want."
Kompany's comparison to Stoke, as clumsy as it may appear, hints at the challenge facing City against Barcelona which they did not encounter against Newcastle.
While Stoke might inflict physical bruises on City during 90 minutes, Barcelona's style of play is more likely to generate psychological trauma, with a sense of fear derived from the ability of Messi and co to pounce at any moment.
For Kompany, however, fear is not the word to describe the prospect of facing Barcelona's South American front three.
"We don't fear them," he said. "You don't go in at this level fearing strikers, we want to play them. It's the third time in a year now.
"You play top teams every season and it's unpredictable. You hope that on your day you can beat them, but I think it's the same for us as it is for them. It's all about the day - who is on form. But it was 5-0 against Newcastle - if we are not well prepared now then we never will be."
As impressive as City were against John Carver's team, they could not have wished for more pliant opponents than Newcastle, unrecognisable from the group of players who triumphed at the Etihad Stadium in the Capital One Cup last October.
Vurnon Anita's comically bad first touch, which led to his foul on Edin Dzeko that resulted in a City penalty after 28 seconds, typified Newcastle's inept performance.
Sergio Aguero confidently passed the penalty into the net to trigger the rout, which saw City lead 3-0 inside 21 minutes following goals from Samir Nasri and a textbook volley by Dzeko.
Wilfried Bony, watching from the bench after his £25m arrival from Swansea City, had already made an impact without even entering the pitch judging by Dzeko's response.
Coasting to victory, City eased off, yet continued to dominate as Newcastle, being watched by Lyon coach Remi Garde, began to resemble a team of traffic cones. David Silva, the Man of the Match, added to the scoring with two goals in the space of two second-half minutes.
It was the perfect preparation for Barcelona, with City also looking to have benefited from a 10-day break caused by their early FA Cup exit.
Manuel Pellegrini believes that the freshness within his City squad could prove decisive against Luis Enrique's team.
"We are not arriving at these games having played as many games as last season," the manager said. "We had played 18 games in December and January and were really tired by the time we met Barcelona." (© Daily Telegraph, London)