Pep Guardiola is widely regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Due to his impressive trophy haul and his revolutionary style of play, he is lauded in every country he has managed in.
In his coaching career, he has managed Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City. His tenure at Bayern is often overlooked because he didn’t win the Champions League, but that team was still a well-oiled machine.
Nevertheless, two of the crown jewels in his managerial career are separated by a decade, both of which reached the Champions League final: 2011 Barcelona and 2021 Manchester City. In a hypothetical game of football, who would come out on top?
Manchester City 2021
Manchester City has been the preeminent club in the Premier League since Guardiola’s arrival. The smooth tactician was unfairly criticized before he arrived, where people questioned his style of play in a more physical league. His stuttering first season added fuel to the fire before two dominant back-to-back title wins, where they amassed an astounding 198 points over the course of those two seasons.
This season may be Manchester City’s finest under the Spaniard because they finally reached the Champions League Final. Unfortunately, they came up short, but it has still been a stellar season. Their dominance in the Premier League began when they signed Ruben Dias, who transformed their defense. Bookmakers already have them favored to retain the title and finish as 2020-21 Premier League Champions at 1.67 in the football betting, with their Champions League final opponents, Chelsea, a distant second at 6.00.
Manchester City never genuinely settled on a starting XI or formation this season and often adapted to their opponents. They shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 and even toyed with a 4-4-2, 3-5-2, and 4-1-4-1. Some players have had peaks and troughs throughout, so for this fictional match, both teams will be set out in 4-3-3, as it was the formation used most frequently by both. The City team will be picked based on who played the most and performed the best.
In goal will be Ederson, and in front of him will be a back four of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Rúben Dias, and João Cancelo. Rodri will play in a single pivot, with Kevin De Bruyne and İlkay Gündoğan just ahead. The two wide forwards will be Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, with Phil Foden playing the false 9.
Towards the end of the season, City made up for the lack of Sergio Agüero and the unreliability of Gabriel Jesus with an interchangeable frontline. City always score a lot of goals and their versatility is their weapon.
The 2011 Barcelona team is considered one of the best squads of the modern era, and when compared to Pep’s 2009 Barca squad, they are the one more in his image. The pinnacle of tiki-taka football – predicated on passing triangles, high pressing, and zonal play. The 2011 squad made up most of the 2010 World Cup-winning team, with one essential addition: Lionel Messi.
The diminutive Argentine is quite possibly the greatest footballer to have ever lived, playing one of his best seasons in 2010-11. With the metronomic cadence of their midfield, they appeared unbeatable.
2011 Barcelona, unlike City, basically picks itself: Víctor Valdés in goal with Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué and Eric Abidal; the legendary midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Andrés Iniesta; Lionel Messi in the false 9, flanked by David Villa and Pedro.
Barcelona accumulated 96 points in the league that season and only lost once in the Champions League before beating Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the final.
It is a difficult match to call. You have the unpredictable dominance of Manchester City, with a balanced yet mercurial attack. On the other hand, you have a harmonious, consistent, and ubiquitous Barcelona, with the best player ever in their ranks. In that case, Barcelona would likely come out on top in what would be a game of the ages. It’s just a shame it can only be played out in our imaginations.