Dealing with Busquets will be key if Manchester City hope to dictate tempo

For most of his first season in charge at Manchester City, Manuel Pellegrini has played a 4-4-2 formation, typically employing two of Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Segio Aguero up front. More often than not the system has worked to devastating effect. City have scored a remarkable 68 league goals including 6 against Spurs at the Etihad, 5 against Spurs away, 4 against Manchester United and 6 against Arsenal.

However, at times the shape has left City too stretched in the middle of midfield. The most obvious example of Pellegrini's side being made to pay for playing 4-4-2 was in their home Champions League clash in early October against Bayern Munich. Bayern are of course managed by Pep Guardiola- the man who more or less introduced the world to tiki taka possession based football. Guardiola played his standard 4-3-3 that evening meaning Bayern had a 3 v. 2 advantage in the midfield. In order to nullify that advantage, City needed a forward to drop in defensively and pick up Bayern's deepest lying midfielder Philip Lahm. It didn't happen. Aguero partnered Dzeko up front and both stayed high up the pitch when Bayern were in possession. Lahm was always left as the spare man to offer an easy passing option. With the spare midfielder Bayern were able to control possession and dictate the tempo of the game. The score ended 3-1 to Bayern after City made a late flourish in the final quarter of an hour but for 75 minutes it was as one sided a game as you're likely to see between two such expensively assembled sides. Bayern finished the game with 66% possession.

 When Barcelona visit the Etihad this evening, City will be up against a side whose footballing philosophy and personnel are largely attributable to Guardiola. Although current manager Tato Martino is less dogmatic about controlling possession than Guardiola, Barcelona still play a 4-3-3 system centered around ball retention. It's a system that is remarkably similar to the one City faced against Bayern. Therefore it will be vital that Pellegrini learned from that heavy defeat.

Sergio Busquets will play the an almost identical role to Lahm for Barcelona, sitting just in front of his two center backs when Barca are in possession and providing a passing option at all times. He's a remarkably intelligent player and skilled passer- if City allow him to get on the ball without applying any pressure, he'll allow Barca to control possession and dictate tempo.

Pellegrini has a few tactical options in dealing with Busquets. With Sergio Aguero set to miss out due to injury he could opt to partner Stefan Jovetic alongside Negredo in a 4-4-2. Jovetic is an energetic and hardworking player unafraid to put in a defensive shift. He has the work rate and athleticism to drop in and mark Busquets when Barca are in possession, then run past him to join in the attack.

Alternatively, City could play a 4-2-3-1. The obvious lineup with this formation would be David Silva in the #10 role with Fernandinho and Yaya Toure playing a double pivot. While Silva's link up play is excellent in the center attacking midfield role, I don't think that lineup solves the problem of dealing with Busquets when Barca are in possession. Silva is not the type of player that can use his strength and energy to press an opposition deep lying midfielder out of the game- vital if City are to prevent Barca from getting into an attacking rhythm. For me, the better option would be to employ Javi Garcia beside Fernandinho as a double pivot and play Toure high up the pitch in the #10 role. This would mean Toure would be directly matched up against Busquets in midfield. Physically the Ivorian is a nightmare matchup for Busquets- he's faster, more powerful and more athletic. His powerful dribbling high up the pitch could cause all sorts of problems for Barca. Defensively, a midfield trio of Toure, Fernandinho and Javi Garcia is quite a powerful and athletic one. If they stayed compact Barcelona would struggle to find the pockets of space in midfield to play their characteristic quick penetrative passes.

Unlike his predecessor Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini hasn't used Toure in the #10 role so it's unlikely we'll see him there today. However, from a tactical standpoint it might be the right move.

Regardless of how City lineup it'll be vital they don't allow Barca's three man central midfield to boss the game the way Bayern were able to do. The amount of space and time on the ball Busquets is afforded will likely dictate how much possession Barca has and whether they're able to control the tempo of the match. It'll be important for City to unsettle Barca and not allow them to play the type of game they want.