Barcelona — Pep Guardiola's decision to leave Sergio Aguero
out of his Manchester City starting lineup Wednesday backfired badly in a 4-0
loss at Barcelona in the Champions League.
Premier League-leading City failed to fill the void created
by the absence of its top scorer. Barcelona capitalized and seized its
opportunities, with Lionel Messi scoring three goals and setting up Neymar for
The loss at Camp Nou against Guardiola's former team exposed
two of the manager's most important decisions as being off the mark.
Aguero's exclusion was tactical. But another big factor in
the loss will revive doubts about getting rid of England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Despite scoring five goals in six Premier League matches and
another six goals in Champions League qualifying and group phase matches this
season, Aguero watched from the dugout as Barcelona took control of Group C
with a commanding victory.
Also read: Sergio Aguero hands Manchester City victory at Sunderland
Guardiola instead resorted to a formation he used often at
Barcelona, playing without a clear striker and instead aligning Kevin De Bruyne
up front as a "false 9" with wingers Manuel "Nolito" Agudo
and Raheem Sterling.
"It was my decision. I wanted more midfielders,"
said Guardiola, confirming that Aguero was not troubled by any lingering
injuries from recent international duty.
De Bruyne was the only City player to occasionally threaten
Barcelona's goal. His best opportunity came late with Barcelona already three
goals clear, but goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen did well to stop him
Another issue highlighted in City's fourth consecutive game
without a win was the poor form of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Bravo, who Guardiola pushed City to sign from Barcelona at
the start of the season, was sent off in the 53rd minute after back-to-back
errors. Bravo first flubbed a pass right to Barcelona's Luis Suarez and then
used his hands to block his shot while outside the box, earning a red card.
Guardiola acknowledged that the mistake, which occurred when
his team was trailing by a goal, crushed any chances of a comeback. Even so, he
defended his goalkeeper.
"He knows what he did," Guardiola said. "He
has a lot of experience. He has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world
for the past 10 years. I have no doubts in him."For
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