MADRID – Andres Iniesta can see it already. The Manchester City team coming to the Camp Nou for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Barcelona has quickly been infused with Pep Guardiola’s playing style.
Iniesta identifies his former coach’s fingerprints at City, with the English club one of the toughest teams to beat in Europe.
“Guardiola’s teams are a reflection of what he wants and, despite the short period in which he has been in command, City already carries his identity, his ball-possession style,” said Iniesta, who played under Guardiola for four years. “Manchester City is a top candidate to win this tournament. It’s part of a very small group of clubs that can win it.”
It will be the second time Guardiola returns to the Camp Nou as a coach. The former Barcelona player was with Bayern Munich in a loss in the Champions League semifinals two seasons ago.
“City has improved its game a lot,” said Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano, another player coached by Guardiola, who won 14 titles while in charge of the Catalan club from 2008-2012.
“Never in my life am I going to change the way I play football,” Guardiola said. “I can make a lot of mistakes but my teams play the way they want.”
Here is a look at the groups playing Wednesday:
Given how poorly Paris Saint-Germain’s midfield played in the unimpressive 2-1 win against bottom-side Nancy in the French league on Saturday, coach Unai Emery will be desperate to have the experienced Thiago Motta back for the home game against Basel.
But Motta is struggling to shake off a muscle injury, meaning that PSG could be missing his snappy tackling, tactical discipline and astute passing against Basel – which has been consistently strong in midfield in recent years.
If Motta fails a fitness test, then Grzegorz Krychowiak is likely to start, although the Poland midfielder looked sluggish and off the pace against Nancy.
Arsenal, which leads the group with the same four points as PSG, hosts last-placed Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria.
UEFA says Napoli has a chance to become the first team in Champions League history to advance from its group after just three matches – if Napoli beats visiting Besiktas, and Dynamo Kyiv draws with Benfica.
However, Napoli has lost consecutive Serie A matches for the first time under second-year coach Maurizio Sarri and has to overcome a lengthy injury layoff for Arkadiusz Milik, the Poland forward who scored seven goals in his first eight matches with the southern club.
Manolo Gabbiadini, Milik’s replacement, did not impress in a 3-1 defeat to Roma at the weekend, which ended Napoli’s 22-match unbeaten streak at home.
Early advancement would provide a measure of revenge for Napoli after the club became the first team with 12 points to be eliminated from the current group-stage format in 2013-14.
While Napoli has a perfect six points and Besiktas two, Dynamo and Benfica have only one each.
Man City got off to a great start under Guardiola, winning 10 straight, but it’s enduring a three-game winless streak that has added some pressure on the newly signed coach.
“Of course the confidence and mood is much better when you win,” Guardiola said after the team’s 1-1 draw with Everton, when Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero had spot kicks saved.
City has four points, two less than Barcelona, which won both of its games and is on a 12-match winning streak at home in the Champions League.
Luis Enrique’s Barcelona is unbeaten in 17 home games in the European competition.
In the other group match, Celtic hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach to try to improve on its four-game unbeaten run at home in Europe.
After a three-match winless run, Carlo Ancelotti’s methods are already being questioned.
The new Bayern coach was praised at the start of the season for his relaxed approach, after Guardiola’s more rigid, detail-driven style. Now, the feeling is that players may be losing their drive and determination under Ancelotti.
Club boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge felt obliged to slam the team’s “unacceptable” performance in a 2-2 draw with 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday. The media quickly suggested that some of Guardiola’s discipline might be in order.
Bayern, which will be without Franck Ribery when it hosts PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, has won 13 consecutive home matches – a Champions League record. PSV, however, is undefeated in 22 away matches in all competitions.
The German side has three points, three less than group leader Atletico Madrid, which plays at Rostov.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf in Roma, Nesha Starcevic in Frankfurt, Germany, and Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.