Tactical Insights

Barcelona 2009 vs Man City 2023


  • Manchester City became the first team to have six players included in The Best FIFA Men’s Team since Barcelona in 2010. Pep Guardiola managed both teams, and gave a vague response when asked who the better side was.
  • Barcelona’s 08/09 Champions League winning side had an exceptional midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets that controlled possession and dominated opponents. An attacking trio which featured Lionel Messi was also very impressive.
  • Man City’s 22/23 Champions League winning side has strong defensive foundations with a back three and John Stones and Rodri in midfield. Erling Haaland enjoyed a record-breaking year in his first season with City, and would be a force to be reckoned with.

What is there to say about Pep Guardiola? It’s as if success follows him around like a lost puppy. At Barcelona, he won two Champions League titles in both 08/09 and 10/11, while he also led his side to become La Liga champions on three occasions – but he wasn’t done there. A move to Bayern Munich followed on the back of his dominance in Spain and, although Europe’s most prestigious title evaded him while in Germany, he continued to prove why he is deemed one of the greatest managers of all time.

That poetically leads us onto the Spaniard’s latest venture: Manchester City. Since his high-profile arrival in 2016, he has won five Premier League titles and, in 2023, he led the club to their first ever victory in the Champions League as they managed to beat a stubborn Inter Milan outfit 1-0 in the final.

At the recent FIFA award ceremony in London, Manchester City became the first club to have six players included in a World XI since Guardiola’s Barcelona outfit in 2010 – a team who were crowned Champions League winners after defeating Manchester United 2-0, courtesy of goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.

On the night of the awards, the current City chief was asked that exact question about which side was better. After swearing in surprise, Guardiola then elaborated on who he thought would be the better side, giving a rather vague answer:

“Both are incredible teams. That period in Barcelona was honestly unbelievable. We were so young. But this team as well in England – the Premier League is really, really tough and competitive for many competitions. These guys season by season, even this season after winning the treble, are still there.

“So, we wake up in the morning, go in there just to prepare or dream or whatever. Being with them, not winning or losing, being with them is the best award I can get as a manager by far.”

But that poses the question: which team is better? It’s a very fair question to ponder and that’s exactly why GIVEMESPORT have decided to decipher which side out of Barcelona’s 08/09 and Manchester City’s 22/23 would come out on top if they were to lock horns. We’re looking at the teams that started the Champions League finals in those seasons, which ultimately led to six players from each squad being named in that year’s World XI. Got it? Grab your popcorn and let’s get straight into it.

Barcelona’s 08/09 Champions League winning side

Messi spearheaded the attack

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates goal against Man Utd

Barcelona’s 2009 Champions League winning XI – Career Statistics





Victor Valdes




Carles Puyol




Yaya Toure




Gerard Piqué








Sergio Busquets




Andrés Iniesta




Xavi Hernandez




Lionel Messi




Samuel Eto’o




Thierry Henry




All statistics per Transfermarkt

Stood tall and firm between the sticks is Victor Valdes. Maybe not the most glamorous of goalkeepers, but the Spaniard’s 536-game stint with the Blaugrana proves that he is worthy of his spot between the posts – and it’s fair to say he had ample stability in front of him.

Despite playing centrally for the majority of his career, the ever-reliable Carles Puyol plied his trade at right-back against Manchester United and managed to keep the Red Devils’ makeshift left-winger Wayne Rooney quiet throughout. Capped by Spain 100 times, he was a defender of the highest level.

Guardiola had to make do with using Yaya Toure, a central midfielder by trade, as a centre back – but he, of course, stepped up to the plate. Having only played there twice for the Spanish side before, the Ivory Coast international filled in expertly with unavailability limiting Guardiola’s choices. Joining him in the heart of defence was Barcelona cult hero Gerard Piqué, while Sylvinho – who played just 128 times for the Spanish titans – filled in at right back amid their defender crisis.

FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique

The midfield trio of Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets formed the engine room of the team – all of whom have ranked highly in football’s top 30 central midfielders since 2000. The former’s vision and array of passing coupled with Iniesta’s dribbling ability made them unstoppable as a midfield partnership. Complete that with Busquets at the fulcrum and their control of possession and quick passing, more commonly known as Tiki Taka, often left opponents chasing shadows.

Then, they had Messi strutting his stuff on the left flank. You just couldn’t introduce the attack more powerfully, could you? His mazy runs and ability to bewilder the opposition made him an immovable object and often the focal point in attack. Eto’o and Thierry Henry joined the fleet-footed forward in attack and provided their own worth with the former’s potency in front of goal – proven by his goal in the final against Manchester United – often overshadowed by the go-to guy, Messi.


10 players with the most individual awards in football history

The 10 footballers who have claimed the most individual awards during their illustrious careers

Manchester City’s 22/23 Champions League winning side

John Stones and Rodri shone in midfield

Man City's Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias celebrate after winning the Champions League.

Manchester City’s 2023 Champions League winning XI – Career Statistics (correct as of 16/01/24)









Manuel Akanji




Rúben Dias




Nathan Ake




John Stones








Bernardo Silva




Kevin De Bruyne




Ilkay Gundogan




Jack Grealish




Erling Haaland




All statistics per Transfermarkt (correct as of 16/01/24)

Interestingly, the Spanish tactician’s blueprint has evolved into a back three, which allows the players in their attacking formation much more freedom, especially with an extra body. That said, he started strong at the back with Brazil ace Ederson. The foundations of Guardiola’s City outfit proved to be formidable, with the former Benfica man able to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League final.

Ahead of him was a back three comprised of Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake and Rúben Dias, with the latter, who is ranked as the best defender in world football right now, utilised as the controller in the middle with his experience at the top level standing him in good stead at the heart of City’s defensive structure.

Guardiola opted for his utility man, John Stones, to join the ever-present Rodri at the base of midfield in a two-man partnership. Not much else needs to be said, does it? Stones’ ability to dictate play and ensure that his side exuded control and kept the tempo at their speed was irreplaceable for Guardiola, while Rodri basked out of the spotlight, though he did pop up with the all-important goal.

The core of their success came from their flat midfield four, which was protected largely by the aforementioned duo who, as mentioned, didn’t mind doing the dirty work. Kevin De Bruyne, named as City’s sixth-greatest player in their history, and Bernardo Silva pulled the strings, all while Ilkay Gundogan, who has since moved to Barcelona, provided Guardiola’s side with a cool head when linking between defence and attack.

De Bruyne

It was Jack Grealish who was tasked with providing width – and the former Aston Villa gem did just that. His willingness to drive at defenders provided his side with a useful tool when their backs were up against the wall. The goal-gobbling Erling Haaland led the line for his side against Inter Milan and would prove to be a nuisance for any defender that dared to attempt to contain him and his free-scoring exploits. The Leeds-born marksman was Guardiola’s sole choice to lead the line and, with the help of his attack-minded midfielders, was able to get their first Champions League triumph over the line.

Predicting the winner

Barcelona’s midfield and Messi make the difference

Manchester City manager Pep Guaridola

First off, what an encounter this would be. Although impossible, seeing both sides – arguably at the peak of their powers – battle it out would be a sight to behold, and it would be easy to sit on the fence and say that both sides would thwart one another, resulting in a draw.

When Haaland and De Bruyne turn up, it’s usually curtains for any opponent – but if anyone was going to keep them at bay, you’d bet that Toure and Pique would be best equipped to do so. It would also be a midfield battle for the ages with the Spanish trio of Barcelona and Guardiola’s City set-up both enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

They say games are won in midfield and – in this case – it would be no different. Henry, Messi and Eto’o combining in attack would inflict a lot of pain on City, but with man-mountain Dias posed as the orchestrator and the two-man block of Stones and Rodri in front, it would be a tough ask for them to get into their usual groove.

Manchester City's Rodri celebrates after winning the Champions League


Managers with the most trophies won in football history

The most successful managers in football history have been named, including Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Sir Alex Ferguson.

However, the innate chemistry between the Barcelona players – particularly in the engine room – cannot go unnoticed and would be the difference maker in this mouth-watering fixture. In a match-up where talent oozes from both sides, it would certainly take more than merely on-field tactics and ability in order to be crowned victors.

Plus, they have eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi – so that, also, gives them the edge. It would be hard-fought, of course, but we’re siding with Barcelona’s imperious side from 2009/10, one that made light work of Sir Alex Ferguson’s star-studded Manchester United.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button