Barcelona face Manchester United in a real glamour tie in the Europa League with a place in the last 16 up for grabs.
Both clubs have endured a tricky couple of years but appear to be on their way back to the top of the game and will be hoping for trophies this year.
Barca remain in contention for La Liga and the Copa del Rey, as well as the Europa League, while United are into the Carabao Cup final and remain alive in the FA Cup.
Both teams head into the game in good form so let’s take a check on Thursday’s opponents.
Manchester United’s main threat will come from Marcus Rashford who arrives at the Camp Nou in the best form of his career so far. Rashford has scored 13 times in all competitions since returning from the World Cup and has 21 for the season for the Red Devils.
No player in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more goals since the World Cup than Rashford which makes his clash against Barcelona’s backline (which is statistically the best in Europe) a key component of this tie.
One To Watch
There’s plenty of quality in the United squad but one player to watch out for in particular as young attacker Alejandro Garnacho. The 18-year-old Argentine is rapidly becoming an influence for the Red Devils and has four assists and three goals for the season.
Ten Hag recently challenged the teenager to match his skill with more end-product and was promptly rewarded with a goal after coming off the bench against Leeds United at Elland Road.
Garnacho’s pace and trickery down the left is a weapon for Manchester United. The youngster may not start the game but will surely arrive at some point and Barca will need to be wary of his threat.
Manchester United will be without several key players for Thursday’s first leg. Perhaps crucially, Lisando Martinez will miss the first leg through suspension. January loanee Marcel Sabitzer is also serving a suspension and will sit this one out.
On the injury front Manchester United are also without some big names. Christian Eriksen, Antony, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay and Donnay van de Beek are also unavailable.
Erik ten Hag is in his first season with Manchester United and is overseeing a strong campaign from the Red Devils. The team are third in the table, behind Arsenal and Manchester City, and look an entirely different proposition from previous seasons.
New signings Lisandro Martinez, Eriksen and Casemiro have all had a big impact, while the club also waved goodbye to Cristiano Ronaldo before the World Cup and much-maligned captain Harry Maguire has been reduced to a bench role.
Ten Hag’s leadership has been strong throughout. Ronaldo was benched earlier this season for walking out of the win over Tottenham early, while Rashford received the same treatment after oversleeping and missing a team meeting.
What They Said
United boss Ten Hag has already expressed his admiration for Xavi and his team and made it clear he’s expecting a very touch test from the La Liga leaders in an interview with UEFA.
“I think Barcelona and [us] as well [would] have preferred to play [this match] in the final. We are looking forward for to it, it takes a lot of energy searching for that finish, and it will be a great game. Hopefully, everyone is fit for Barcelona and for us. So, we see a game played at the highest level.
“I really like his team, the attacking way of play. I think he is heading in the right direction. I think it’s going to be a good challenge between Manchester United and Barcelona.”
Barcelona have the edge when it comes to the overall record between the two sides, particularly in recent meetings. The Catalans famously won the Champions League finals against the Red Devils in 2009 and 2011.
The last time the two clubs met in European competition ended in a 4-0 win for Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals back in 2018-19.
What do you think the result will be this time around? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!