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September 20, 2017

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Crisis hit Barca in need of Champions League boost

MADRID -- Barcelona host Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday desperately in need of a good performance to distract attention from a dreadful start to 2014 on and off the field.

When the Catalans were given the hardest draw open to them in a pairing with City back in December, it was a minor setback on what had until then been a season that had exceeded expectations.

Despite being hastily appointed just two weeks before the campaign kicked off as Tito Vilanova was unfortunately forced to resign due to on-going health problems, coach Gerardo Martino oversaw Barca's best ever start to a La Liga season.

Martino's first defeat in charge came in the Champions League to a youthful Ajax side in November, but it mattered little as Barca also strolled through to the last 16 as winners of Group H.

However, this year has so far proved to be a more difficult time for the club.

In January, Sandro Rosell resigned as president due to on-going legal action for misappropriation of funds over the controversial signing of Brazilian star Neymar last May.

Rosell had insisted the 22-year-old's transfer had cost the club 57 million euros (US$79 million), but the day after his departure Barcelona released figures showing the overall cost of the operation, including a signing bonus for the player, marketing deals and other collaborative agreements, amounted to 86.2 million euros.

The club was then charged with tax fraud over the transfer and paid 13.5 million euros to the Spanish treasury despite protesting that they had not committed any offence.

Those fiscal troubles have now been reflected in the Spanish champions' performances on the field as Saturday's 1-0 defeat to lowly Valladolid saw them lose for the third time in six La Liga games.

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