Champions League Five Things to Watch: Pep faces his past in Barcelona clash

What masterplan has Pep got in store for his old club?
What masterplan has Pep got in store for his old club?

Matchday 3 of the Champions League begins midweek and the pick of the ties is Pep Guardiola's return to the Camp Nou with Manchester City. James Horncastle give his thoughts on the mouthwatering encounter...

"Luis Suarez reached the top of the scoring charts in La Liga against Depor, hitting his 45th goal in 45 games in 2016. Neymar set up both his buddies and hit the bar. Even Rafinha has five goals in eight appearances this season."

Can Pep stop Messi?

Lionel Messi's fifth goal of the season in La Liga took only four minutes and three touches. Unfortunately for Manchester City he is back just in time for their Champions League encounter at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. When cheekily asked at his unveiling in the summer if he might be able to persuade Messi to leave Barça for City, Pep Guardiola joked: "He's not a bad player, this guy." As a Catalan and a Barcelona socio, however, Pep apologised and insisted "Messi has to stay in Barcelona for the rest of his career."

Messi had Guardiola out of his seat in disbelief when the City coach returned to his old club on a scouting mission before Bayern played Barcelona two years ago. It only hardened the conviction that "when Messi is on form, like he is now, no defensive system or coach can stop him." Not even Pep. Messi scored twice in a 3-0 win, flooring Jerome Boateng for one of the most memorable goals of his illustrious career.

The timing of this game could be better for City. A month ago, everything seemed easy - victorious in their opening 10 games of the season, the Citizens are now without a win in three and haven't kept a clean sheet in five. It doesn't bode well for facing the MSN. Luis Suarez reached the top of the scoring charts in La Liga against Depor, hitting his 45th goal in 45 games in 2016. Neymar set up both his buddies and hit the bar. Even Rafinha has five goals in eight appearances this season. City have weapons of their own of course and it was fascinating to watch Pep start Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan on Saturday and then throw Sergio Agüero on in the second half. Back this one to finish over 4.5 goals @ 3.8514/5.


Cristiano can boost his goal tally against Legia

Staying in Spain, Legia Warsaw must be quaking in their boots as they prepare to play Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Beaten 6-0 in their own backyard by Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 1, they can't have enjoyed watching the holders end their crisis stricken run of four consecutive draws with a 6-1 win in Seville against Betis. This is exactly the kind of game Cristiano Ronaldo uses to give himself the best possible chance of finishing top scorer in this competition, so back him to do just that while you can @ 4.1.


Javier Hernandez can torment Spurs

His former teammate Javier Hernandez will be the principal threat Tottenham face when they visit Leverkusen on Tuesday. The Mexico international has scored seven times in his last nine Champions League starts and remains a poacher par excellence. It should be a fascinating game at the BayArena not least because Leverkusen can be irresistible when everything clicks in Roger Schmidt's full throttle fußball system. The problem for them, however, is they lack balance and consistency and play too open. Spurs ought to be encouraged by the maturity they showed on the road in Moscow last time out but this has the potential to be a trap game. Back Hernandez to score @ 2.486/4.


Celtic can pour more misery on Gladbach

Another German team hoping to get a result against a British opponent is Borussia Mönchengladbach who fly to Glasgow on Wednesday. Gladbach are without a win in three in all competitions and were held to a stalemate by relegation threatened Hamburg on Saturday even though they played for more than hour against 10 men. Sweating on the fitness of their major difference makers, Thorgan Hazard and Raffael, if either of them were to miss out, then maybe, just maybe Celtic could get their first win at this stage of the competition since they got the better of Ajax three years ago. As we saw against City, Parkhead completely transforms on Champions League nights and lifts the team to play above itself. Back Celtic to win @ 3.259/4.


Foxes can keep a clean sheet in Copenhagen

Leicester are another team that metamorphose at the sound of 'les grande équipes' or at least revert to playing as well as they did in the Premier League last season. Perfect so far in Group G, the contrast is stark with their form on the domestic front. Take the defence, for example, which is conceding soft goals, particularly from set-pieces; it has kept clean sheets against Brugge and Porto. The backline will have to be on their guard at the King Power on Wednesday evening. Copenhagen put four past Brugge. Thomas Delaney scored the goal of the competition so far and dead-ball situations look a forte. Look out for Ludwig Augustinsson, he has a mean delivery. Still, I expect Leicester to showcase the focus they have demonstrated in their other continental performances this season. Back a clean sheet @ 2.447/5.


Recommended Bets

Barcelona v Man City to finish over 4.5 goals @ 3.8514/5

Cristiano Ronaldo to finish Top Scorer @ 4.1

Javier Hernandez To Score against Tottenham @ 2.486/4

Celtic to win against Borussia Mönchengladbach @ 3.259/4

Leicester to keep a clean sheet in Copenhagen @ 2.447/5

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