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Manchester City vs. Barcelona preview, Champions League 2015: Expect goals

Attack will almost certainly trump defence when Manchester City host Barcelona at the Etihad on Tuesday.

David Ramos/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Manchester City host Barcelona in what is unquestionably the tie of the round in the Champions League (2:45 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). We'll see the reigning Premier League champions go up against a Barcelona team that have been largely dominant in this tournament in the last decade. Though they've not won it in a few years, Barça's front line of Neymar, Luis Suárez and and someone by the name of Lionel Messi means they're still serious contenders to do so again.

Barça undoubtedly head into the tie as favourites. Not only is their squad more impressive in its personnel, but their domestic form is superior, too. We also shouldn't forget what happened when these sides met in this tournament last year: the Spaniards ran out 4-1 aggregate winners. That isn't to say City don't have a chance; any team with Sergio Agüero in it shouldn't be taken lightly, but there are big concerns about the solidity of their defence and the strength of their midfield in the absence of Yaya Touré. If anyone is going to expose their flaws, it's Barça.

Team news

Manchester City will be without the suspended midfield marauder Yaya Touré, though their only other definitely unavailable player is striker Stevan Jovetić, who was omitted from Manuel Pellegrini's knockout round squad to make way for January arrival Wilfried Bony. James Milner also has a knee injury, but is expected to play. Barça aren't quite as healthy: they'll certainly be without centre-back Thomas Vermaelen who will miss the remainder of the campaign, while right back Douglas has also been left at home.

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Projected lineups (left to right)

Manchester City (4-2-3-1)Joe Hart; Gaël Clichy, Eliaquim Mangala, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta; Fernandinho, Fernando; James Milner, David Silva, Jesús Navas; Sergio Agüero.

Barcelona (4-3-3)Claudio Bravo; Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves; Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitić; Neymar, Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi.

Key Matchups

Barcelona's front three vs. Manchester City's defence - This is an extremely obvious matchup, but it is probably going to be the one that decides the tie. No team in the world has as much individual quality in attack as Barça, meaning that City's unconvincing defence will be pushed to the limit. If Barça's forwards get the better of their individual battles, they should score a few.

Sergio Busquets vs. David Silva - Manuel Pellegrini is likely to start with a five-man midfield against Barça, with David Silva playing in behind striker Sergio Agüero. His performance against Newcastle on the weekend, in which he netted a brace, will no doubt have been watched closely by Sergio Busquets, who will be the man charged with keeping the silky playmaker out of the game.

The midfield battle - With Yaya Touré unavailable, there have to be serious concerns about City's midfield. Neither Fernandinho nor Fernando have been particularly impressive since joining, and could find stifling Barça's attack impossible.

Prediction

Barça are the better of these two teams, though their defence doesn't quite manage to live up to the quality of their attack -- something Agüero and co. will no doubt look to take advantage of. This game will probably be tight, though expect goals to be scored. 2-1 Barcelona.