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Manchester City ready for Barcelona

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Flashing rarely sighted smiles, unruffled by the prospect of taking on Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini personified the calm and confidence at Manchester City where chaos once reigned.

Even a declaration that City is now the dominant power in Manchester didn't seem so farfetched, albeit unusually eye-catching from a manager renowned for his intentionally bland public comments.

Rather than attempting to set off a verbal skirmish with Manchester United, this was just a statement of fact on Monday by a manager with a spring in his step ahead of the biggest European game in the club's long, but not so illustrious, history.

Well, not compared with United's.

That could all be changing, Pellegrini predicts. Barcelona's previous trips to Manchester for competitive games have always been to Old Trafford, failing to win on four visits against United.

But the Spanish champions will play a first competitive game against City on Tuesday, in the Champions League round of 16, facing a team third in the Premier League while United is fading in seventh and unlikely to qualify for European soccer's elite competition next season.

''If we only consider this season, there is just one club in Manchester and it's ours,'' Pellegrini said in Spanish. ''But you cannot forget what United has done in the previous years. We are aiming to keep growing by winning many trophies - not just national but international trophies. We are fighting for four titles this year.''

Just 15 years ago, though, City was in the depths of the third tier of English soccer before embarking on an uneasy ascent back from the wilderness.

After returning to the Premier League in 2002 and staying in business when it faced oblivion, the wealth of Abu Dhabi's ruling family has enabled City to become the biggest spenders in world soccer since 2008.

The takeover had City supporters start to dream about knocking United off its pedestal, but despite winning the Premier League in 2012, only since Alex Ferguson's retirement from United last year has the balance of power looked as if it was seriously shifting.

''We have to be patient because you cannot change the team from one day to another,'' Pellegrini said. ''We have to keep the philosophy of the style and for that you need time.''

Under David Moyes, United seems to be fading as a force on the pitch, just as Barcelona's cloak of invincibility has slipped away since manager Pep Guardiola left in 2012.

Yet while Barcelona is on top of the Spanish standings, in a three-way battle for the title with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, United is not a Premier League threat - for now.

But it will take far longer for City to usurp United's commercial might or global fan base.

A victory over Barcelona would go some way to enhancing City's global credibility after the expensively assembled squad slipped out of the Champions League at the group stage in the previous two seasons when Roberto Mancini was still in charge.

Mancini's departure after last season ended without a trophy and enabled City to bring in a more composed manager who has enjoyed a tranquil first season at the helm.

''We have to be patient because you cannot change the team from one day to another,'' Pellegrini said. ''We have to keep the philosophy of the style and for that you need time ... this club is trying to develop in all areas and so far we have a good season, but we must finish that way.''

City midfielder Yaya Toure left Barcelona just before the Catalans went on to sweep five trophies in 2011 alone.

Toure has only won the Premier League and FA Cup at City, but sees a victory over Barcelona as an opportunity to show there is more to come from this team.

''Barcelona are at the top level in the world and if we want to move on and one day be one of the top clubs in the world, we have to play against those teams,'' Toure said.

Soccer Betting Odds provided by

February 18, 2014

Paris Saint-Germain at Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen +175
Paris SG +125
Draw +210

Barcelona at Manchester City
Manchester City +160
Barcelona +150
Draw +210

February 19, 2014

Atletico Madrid at AC Milan
AC Milan+188
Atletico Madrid +125
Draw +188

Bayern Munich at Arsenal
Arsenal +275
Bayern Munich -120
Draw +210

February 25, 2014

Borussia Dortmund at Zenit Petersburg
Zenit Petersburg +275
Borussia Dortmund -120
Draw +220

Manchester United at Olympiakos
Olympiakos +200
Manchester United +115
Draw +210

February 26, 2014

Chelsea at Galatasaray
Galatasaray +250
Chelsea -109
Draw +220

Real Madrid at Schalke 04
Schalke +450
Real Madrid -200
Draw +260

Odds to win the UEFA Champions League (5/28/14)

Bayern Munich 9/4
Barcelona 9/2
Real Madrid 5/1
Manchester City 12/1
Borussia Dortmund 12/1
Atletico Madrid 14/1
Chelsea 14/1
Paris Saint-Germain 14/1
Manchester United 16/1
Arsenal 18/1
AC Milan 40/1
Galatasaray 100/1
Bayer Leverkusen 125/1
Schalke 04 200/1
Zenit St Petersburg 200/1
Olympiakos 400/1

Winning Nationality

Spain 3/2
Germany 13/8
England 3/1
France 14/1
Italy 40/1
Any other Nation 66/1

Teams To Reach Final

Bayern Munich 11/10
Barcelona 2/1
Real Madrid 5/2
Bor Dortmund 5/1
Man City 6/1
Paris Saint-Germain 13/2
Atletico Madrid 7/1
Chelsea 7/1
Man Utd 8/1
Arsenal 9/1
AC Milan 28/1
Bayer Leverkusen 40/1
Galatasaray 66/1
Schalke 04 80/1
Zenit St Petersburg 80/1
Olympiakos 100/1

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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