Mascherano: Champions League qualification in Barcelona's hands

The midfielder is hoping the Catalans will make the most of their 2-0 first-leg lead when they meet Man City, but is wary of the threat that Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero poses

Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano believes that his side's Champions League fate is in their hands, but he is wary of the threat that Manchester City pose - especially from compatriot Sergio Aguero.

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The Catalans - who beat City 2-0 in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie - have struggled for form recently, and two defeats in their last three games has seen the team face criticism from fans and the media alike.

However, the 29-year-old is confident that his side can defend their lead and shake off City to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League when the two teams meet in the second leg on Wednesday.

"We have an advantage and we'll try to make the most of it," the midfielder told AS. "But, at the same time, we can't let that make us lose focus and we won't come out to defend our lead.

"We can't give them chances to counterattack, or give them space. We have to make the most of our advantage, keeping possession.

"It's down to us to know what we have to do to go through to the quarter-finals."

The Argentina international believes that Aguero's ability could cause problems for Los Blaugranas, and has urged his teammates not to let the forward have too much space.

"I think tomorrow's match will have Man City on the attack. They will try to use lots of attacking players," Mascherano said at a press conference.

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"I know Sergio Aguero and he's one of the best five forwards in the world. He is capable of ruining your day so we will try to not give him much space, make him uncomfortable."

Mascherano insisted that Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Valladolid will not have a negative effect on the mentality of his team-mates and believes his side should be encouraged by the opportunity of winning the treble.

"Sometimes things are dramatised more than others, depending on where you are," he continued to AS. "But if you're a footballer and want to play at a club like Barcelona, that's what it’s like.

"What we’re most worried about is trying to do well, staying focused on getting through to the quarter-finals.

"The team isn't affected adversely at all [by the defeat]. We analyse things in a different way as you [the press]. We're in the Champions League last-16, we’re in the Copa del Rey final and we believe it's possible to win the league.

"Tomorrow [against City] is a different story. We have to respond as we always have in these situations. First we have to concentrate on reaching the next round and then we’ll focus on the league.

"Our intention isn’t to shut people up; it's to get back to our best. When we say we can fight for all three trophies, we know that the way we played against Valladolid isn’t the way to play.

"On the talk of loss of hunger, it's very easy to criticise and talk after a defeat. Barca have shown that their appetite has never been satisfied. Don't write Barca off just yet."