Manchester United vs FC Barcelona
Competition/Round: 2022-23 UEFA Europa League, Playoff Knockouts, Second Leg
First leg result: Barcelona 2-2 Manchester United
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Pedri, Gavi, Ousmane Dembélé
Man United Outs & Doubts: Christian Eriksen, Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek (out), Harry Maguire, Antony (doubt)
Date/Time: Thursday, February 23, 2023, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Friday)
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Referee: Clément Turpin (FRA)
VAR: Jérôme Brisard (FRA)
How to watch on TV: TUDN (USA), Not Available (Canada), BT Sport 2 (UK), SONY TEN 2 (India), SuperSport (Nigeria), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
How to watch online: Paramount+ (USA), BTSport.com (UK), Movistar+ (Spain), others
Following an important but hard-fought win over Cádiz to maintain their eight-point lead at the top of the La Liga table, Barcelona return to action for a massive European night as they travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the second leg of their Europa League Playoff tie.
The winner of this one will advance to the Round of 16, and it really is a shame that one of them has to go home so early in the tournament. Simply put these two put on a show last week, with 90 minutes of incredible action, great football by both teams, and a 2-2 draw that was a fair reflection of just hwo close the two sides were on the night.
But United have the advantage going into the second leg having avoided defeat, and they have to be considered favorites because they’re playing at home where they’ve been almost unbeatable all season. Erik Ten Hag’s side turns up the intensity even more with the home crowd behind them, and quite a few really good teams in the Premier League barely got a kick at the Theatre of Dreams.
To make it even tougher for Barça, United get two major starters back as center-back Lisandro Martínez returns and January signing Marcel Sabitzer comes back into midfield after suspension, and Brazilian winger Antony should be fit enough for the bench to add another weapon to an already devastating attack.
And we haven’t even mentioned the Barça absences: Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé are out through injury and Gavi is suspended, so the Blaugrana face the biggest game of their season so far without their three most creative players and the two midfielders in the squad who are perfectly suited for the kind of intensity required in these games.
It’s a gigantic challenge for the remaining players and especially for Xavi Hernández, who was outcoached in the first leg and has to come up big to create a system good enough to not only compete but beat United without three crucial attacking pieces. His starting lineup has to be perfect, and the tactical gameplan needs to account for United’s man-marking, their high pressing, their set pieces, and Marcus Rashford’s incredible form.
As well as Barça have done this season, they are the underdogs on Thursday and advancing in this tie will be considered an upset based on the quality of the opponent, the brutal and hostile atmosphere, and most importantly the absences. The Catalans proved last week they can compete with Europe’s best, but winning this one will require a superhuman effort.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Busquets, Roberto; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran
Man United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martínez, Shaw; Casemiro, Sabitzer; Fernandes, Weghorst, Sancho; Rashford
This will be chaotic and wild and fun and really close again, but when it matters most Barça will miss their best players: 3-2 United.