MANCHESTER – Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure wants his side to prove their emergence as a European force by overcoming his former club Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.
The two sides face off in the first leg of their tie at City’s Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, when the home side will be making their first appearance in the competition’s knockout phase.
In stark contrast, Barcelona have reached the semi-finals for the last six seasons in a row, winning the tournament in 2009 and 2011, but Toure says that tackling the leading sides is a key stage in City’s development.
Asked if City can cause Barcelona problems, the Ivory Coast international replied: “We have the players to do that. We’re having good results at the moment. We have quality and the team to do that.
“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, 30, spent three years at Barcelona, winning seven trophies, before swapping Catalonia for Manchester in July 2010.
Barca have amassed a further nine titles since he left, including the 2011 Champions League, but having won the FA Cup and the Premier League with City, Toure says he has no regrets about leaving.
“No, I don’t have anything to prove to them,” he told reporters during Monday’s pre-game press conference.
“I won a lot of trophies with them and from my point of view, it was the right time to move on. With the history Barcelona have, I could do nothing more.
“For me, coming to Man City was the right move. The history was not quite exceptional, but we are on the right way.
“We have a new manager (Manuel Pellegrini) with a fantastic idea of football and we’re very excited about the future.”
Toure could be paired with usual central midfield partner Fernandinho against Barcelona, after the Brazilian missed three matches with a muscular problem.
In Fernandinho’s absence, Toure was criticised for neglecting his defensive responsibilities in City’s recent 1-0 loss to Chelsea and 0-0 draw at Norwich City, but he said the criticism was unwarranted.
“Sometimes you guys (in the media) criticise, we understand that,” he said.
“You have to understand that in football, (the media says that) when we win, we’re better, when we lose, we’re a bad team.
“We understand that is part of the game. But the most important thing is just to continue. At the end of the season, if we’ve won the trophies it’s going to be fantastic for us.”
City manager Pellegrini also defended Toure, who is a three-time African Footballer of the Year.
“Yaya is a very important player for us,” Pellegrini said.
“I have listened to some questions about the way he plays and Yaya plays the way I want him to play. He scores a lot of goals and brings a lot of creativity to our team.
“Playing in there with Javi Garcia or Fernandinho is the way I want him to play, where he is free and can give us a lot of offensive moments. But he knows also he has to defend, and he can do it.”