Barcelona vs Manchester United Preview

Manchester United will look to make a statement on the European scene as they travel to La Liga leaders Barcelona in the first leg of their Europa League playoff tie. United are in this position for three reasons. A controversial penalty awarded to Real Sociedad in a 0-1 loss at Old Trafford, failing to score more than one goal in their 1-0 win over Sociedad in Spain, and finally, missing so many big chances in the other group stage games that United’s goal difference was inferior to Sociedad’s, leaving them second in the group. The final issue of course was partly due to the player who missed the most big chances in the Europa league group stages – the now Al-Nassr player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona themselves are tied against Manchester United for finishing third in their Champions League group behind both Bayern Munich and Benfica. Barcelona are high-flying as well as they are unbeaten in all competitions since their 0-3 loss to Bayern Munich back in late October. A run extending 16 games with 14 wins in 90 minutes. In this run, they have also mounted an 11 point lead at the top of La Liga having conceded the fewest goals and scored the most in the league. However, in Europe, they have shipped 12 goals in six games and failed to keep a single clean sheet.

United will be confident with their own form and that Barcelona have this troubling European record of failing to keep a clean sheet which extends to March 2022 when they drew 0-0 at home to Galatasaray. However, their record against Spanish sides in knockout rounds is geuninely horrendous. Here’s all you need to know:

Match Information:

Teams: Barcelona and Manchester United
Date: Thursday 16th February 2023
KO Time: 17:45 GMT
Location: Spotify Nou Camp
Managers: Xavi Hernandez and Erik ten Hag
Referee: Maurizio Mariani

Barcelona and Manchester United Team News:


In Barcelona’s 0-1 win over Villarreal, they were not able to rest players as they started almost at full strength bar two big injuries. Sergio Busquets and Ousmane Dembele are both injured and unlikely to make either game against Manchester United. During this period, Gavi has been deputising on the left while, against Villarreal, Kessie dropped into midfield alongside Frenkie de Jong.

Manchester United

Manchester United have a few more concerns than their Catalan opponents. Marcel Sabitzer and Lisandro Martinez are both suspended due to yellow card accumulation. This explains why Luke Shaw started the game against Leeds at LCB. In order to warm up ahead of playing against one of the best strikers around. In midfield, Casemiro is available for selection thankfully but Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek are all absent. Coupled with Sabitzer’s suspension, it hints at a Brazilian pivot of Casemiro and Fred.

In forward areas, Anthony Martial and Antony are both out injured as well. So United’s front line will likely include a combination of Garnacho, Sancho, Rashford or Weghorst.

Interesting Facts:

  • As hinted at, Manchester United have been knocked out of European competitions by Spanish opposition for the last five consecutive years. However, every time United have knocked out Spanish opposition in the Europa League, they have reached the final.
  • Barcelona have conceded 12 goals already in Europe this season in just 6 games. Manchester United have conceded just 13 goals in Europe from the start of LAST season (14 games). Including three this season.
  • The last time Manchester United failed to top their Europa League group, they won the competition.

Manchester United Predicted XI vs Barcelona

As mentioned, Luke Shaw will certainly start at left centre back along with a rested Raphael Varane. I think for this match, Aaron Wan-Bissaka should start along with Tyrell Malacia. David de Gea will hope for a better performance at the Nou Camp to his last one. In midfield, Casemiro will play along with Fred ahead of Bruno Fernandes who is hoping for his first win over Barcelona.

In attack, I expect Sancho will keep his place despite a slighty underwhelming performance against Leeds and Rashford will be the danger man on the left. This should leave Wout Weghorst up front to hold up play and link between the two wide men as he will be only matched by Araujo and Kessie for physicality.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Shaw, Malacia; Casemiro, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Weghorst

Predicted Score:

Barcelona have been almost flawless since their Champions League exit but that still hangs over their head about their European ambitions. Manchester United have all it takes to win but it’s whether they can overcome such a powerhouse this season and I anticipate they will do so in the second leg.

Prediction: 1-1 draw

Author: Arjun Handa

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