Pitchside

Messi v Aguero: Who will decide the Barca-City clash?

Pitchside

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Manchester City travel to Barcelona knowing only a stunning win will offer them a route to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a desperately disappointing 2-0 defeat at Etihad Stadium in the first leg.

The man who punished Manuel Pellegrini's side that evening was Lionel Messi; his turn of pace drew a clumsy challenge from Martin Demichelis, which resulted in a red card. The Argentine coolly netted the awarded spot-kick to give Barca the edge, before Dani Alves' late effort made things a whole lot harder for City.

The absence of Sergio Aguero was keenly felt by the home side, with Alvaro Negredo having looked more domesticated pet than 'Beast' on the night, but the influential striker is back to fitness for the Camp Nou clash.

This ensures Aguero will be in direct competition with his international colleague, and given the fact the tie may very well be decided by either of these Argentine assassins, it's well worth looking at how they compare based on the current season using the Squawka Comparison Matrix.

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Figures Per 90 Minutes Played

In terms of league goals, both have notched 15 strikes - though with Messi having played 20 games and Aguero just 17, Aguero's ratio of 1.13 goals per 90 minutes edges Messi's 0.89.

The Barcelona star has taken 103 shots in La Liga compared to Aguero's 70 in the Premier League, and has a higher accuracy at 65% compared to Aguero's 60%. That said, Aguero has scored the same amount with fewer shots, so has had the more productive season in front of goal in relative terms so far.

In terms of assists, Messi has eight compared to Aguero's five, and has created 43 chances compared to Aguero's 27. One of the reasons Messi is such a fearsome opponent is that for all the personal glory he enjoys, and for all the scoring records he breaks, he is as comfortable unlocking a defence for a team-mate as he is finishing off a move.

Last season, he provided 12 assists to go with a remarkable 46 league goals, meaning he had a direct hand in 58 of Barcelona's La Liga goals last term - a truly astonishing statistic. Aguero, on the other hand, scored 12 and assisted just two - fewer than a quarter of Messi's goal/assist output last season.

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Figures Per 90 Minutes Played

Both strikers have had their injury troubles this season and with Messi's latest on-field vomiting, it's clear all is not right with the Barcelona man. What it has meant is that Aguero has caught up in terms of productivity. However, neither have been at the peak of their powers during the 2013-14 campaign.

Still, looking to the Champions League, both are having fine seasons. In just five European appearances this term, Aguero has six goals and two assists and created seven chances for his team-mates, marking himself out as the key man for City in continental competition this year.

Messi, meanwhile, has been less helpful for his team-mates, with no assists and having created just six chances. Any criticism this might draw becomes slightly undermined, though, when it's acknowledged he has netted seven goals in only four appearances.

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Aguero brace versus CSKA - This screenshot is from the Squawka Football App – Download it here for free

Messi's shooting accuracy is 69% from 21 shots, while Aguero's is 52% from 22, and it's clear that Messi is giving Tata Martino the selfish, lethal forward that Champions League winners need, leading the line to devastating effect.

But where Messi comes into his own is in terms of his contribution to Barcelona's overall philosophy of possession football, having made 747 successful passes in La Liga this term for a pass completion rate of 85%.

Aguero's passing accuracy is similarly impressive at 84%, but with 313 successful passes - fewer than half of Messi's output. In the Champions League, Messi has made 235 passes - more than double Aguero's 110 in one game fewer - and again edges the accuracy with 86% to 83%.

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Messi hat-trick versus Ajax - This screenshot is from the Squawka Football App – Download it here for free

There is no shame in Aguero's statistics compared to Messi, as few can rival the Barca forward in terms of passing: he is the hub of an elite team which prides itself on keeping the ball at all costs. Of his 747 completed passes, 464 were forwards, showing the fearless quality he is bringing to his side's play.

In terms of duels, Messi's 89 successful take-ons in La Liga - which equate to a staggering 5.3 per game - eclipse Aguero's 26, while Messi's success rate of 60.54% show just how difficult it is to get the ball off him. Messi will either run past you or simply shift it on if the risk is too great.

In the Champions League though, the stats even out, with Messi only having completing 14 take-ons in four games with his success rate dipping to 48.28% - even lower than Aguero's success rate of 50% from 11 attempts. Whether that's because Spanish defences are noticeably weaker, or whether European sides put more effort into tracking Messi, the Barca forward may find less room on Wednesday night.

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Aguero edges Messi in the air, having won 50% of his aerial duels to Messi's 21.43% in league outings, which is no surprise given Messi's smaller stature. However, on the floor it is a different story.

Messi has won 32 free-kicks in domestic competition, while having given away just eight. Aguero, in comparison, has won 20 fouls while having committed 13. With Messi also winning 10 of 18 tackles compared to Messi's six of 14, the Barcelona forward seems to also have the measure of his opponents - and Aguero - in defensive terms.

The Comparison Matrix suggests that while neither player may look back on this season as one of their most stellar campaigns, both have had a telling impact for their sides. Aguero has been more prolific in front of goal with less time on the pitch, but Messi has made more of a contribution to Barcelona's overall play.

Messi is the physical embodiment of everything that Los Blaugranas strive for on the pitch - and it is tough to compete with that. What Aguero can offer on Wednesday, though, is an eye for goal, a physical presence in the air, and chances for his team-mates.

City desperately need their Argentine talisman to be firing on all cylinders if they are to stand a chance - they just have to hope Barca's has a rare blip in an otherwise stunning European campaign so far.

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