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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola doubts whether he can conjure a plan to stifle Lionel Messi and the rest of Barcelona's striking talent

Ross McLean
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Pep Guardiola twice won the Champions League while in charge at Barcelona (Source: Getty)

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola admits he is unsure whether he can plot a game-plan to contain Barcelona’s striking trident – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – as he prepares for an emotional return to Camp Nou.

Guardiola spent a trophy-laden four-year spell at Barcelona before leaving in 2012 and taking charge of Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. He returns to Catalonia with new club City in the midst of a three-match winless streak.

Barcelona’s unrelenting goalscoring triumvirate have notched 23 strikes between them so far this season, and Guardiola is anticipating an uncomfortable evening in the cauldron of his former surroundings.

“I don’t know what instructions I can give to control the talent,” said Guardiola, who won two Champions League titles while in charge at Barcelona.

“Ninety minutes is a long time. They will have a moment and when they do they are so precise they don’t need to create a lot of chances to score a goal. That is the big talent of the strikers at Barcelona.

“I know what they are going to do tomorrow, I know what I want to do. We are going to try and afterwards we are going to see if we are able.”

Guardiola’s previous return to Camp Nou ended in disappointing fashion as his Bayern Munich side were beaten 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final in 2015.

City reached the last four of the competition for the first time last season under Manuel Pellegrini, and Guardiola insists regular semi-final appearances are a must if they are to be spoken of in the same bracket as Barcelona.

“You are important in Europe when you are in the semi-finals all the time and that is the next target at this club,” added Guardiola.

Striker Sergio Aguero is set to return to City’s starting line-up after being named as a substitute against Everton at the weekend, a match which also saw the return of skipper Vincent Kompany following a groin injury.