Man Utd vs Barcelona – Analysis, Prediction, Team News
Thursday 23rd February 2023
As part of our Europa League Predictions, we take examine Barcelona’s visit to Old Trafford. Following a pulsating 2-2 draw in Barcelona, can United progress with home advantage? Read on with our Man Utd vs Barcelona prediction.
Barcelona (CL and EL)
Man Utd vs Barcelona Match Preview
United finished second in Group E to Real Sociedad. Both won five of their games, with the only defeat being their respective home tie against each other. United had to win by two clear goals in Spain to finish first, but could only win 1-0. Domestically, things are going well for the Mancunians. They have 11 points over the last six games, including wins in the previous two. They come into the game on the back of a resounding 3-0 with over Leicester, though it wasn’t without VAR controversy. Only five points behind leaders Arsenal, with the Carabao Cup Final to come three days after this game, and still in the FA Cup, United have plenty to play for this season.
Barcelona dropped into the Europa League after finishing a disappointing third in Group C of the Champions League. Their group also contained fellow heavyweights Bayern and Inter (and minnows Viktoria Plzen). However, one point from twelve against the Germans and Italians was not good enough. Domestically, it is a different story, as Barca sit top of La Liga, having dropped only two points in their last 13 games. With an eight-point lead over Real Madrid, and their bitter capital rivals still to come in a two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final, the Catalans are eyeing a European treble this season.
The teams treated us to an entertaining 2-2 at Camp Nou last week. We predicted 2-1 Barcelona, but United got the draw and submitted a better performance than we anticipated. After a pulsating first half where Lewandowski and Weghorst, amongst others, had chances, surprise Barca selection Alonso headed them in front from a corner in the 50th minute. Rashford quickly equalised with a shot from the right channel after being played in by Fred. Ter Stegen should have saved this strike at his near post.
Rashford then destroyed the Barca defence as he came inside from the wing and crossed for Kounde to put it into his own net. Raphinha equalised with 14 minutes to go with a left-footed cross-cum-shot which Lewandowski did not touch and that evaded De Gea. United had the higher expected goals and could feel proud of their night’s work. They will hope to finish the job at Old Trafford. Barcelona played well but will know they have to be more defensively sound in Manchester, which will be difficult without the injured Pedri and suspended Gavi.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might Not Play: Maguire, Martial, Antony
Will Not Play: Eriksen, Van de Beek
Might Not Play:
Will Not Play: Pedri, Dembele, Gavi
Man Utd vs Barcelona Lineups (Predicted)
Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Shaw, Martinez, Varane, Wan-Bissaka; Sabitzer, Casemiro; Rashford, Fernandes, Sancho; Weghorst
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Balde, Christensen, Araujo, Kounde; Busquets, De Jong, Kessie; Fati, Lewandowski, Raphinha
Man Utd vs Barcelona Analysis
United Will Try To Attack
After such an impressive performance at Camp Nou, we expect a confident high-flying United team to come out here and take the game to Barcelona, especially on the counter-attack. United will look to pounce on the Barca midfielders in the centre of the park. Indeed, Casemiro and Sabitzer will press and try to take the ball from De Jong and a returning Busquets. If United can win the ball in these areas, they can release their forwards. Rashford has proved for much of the season what a threat he is, and we will talk more in-depth about him later. With his pace, trickery, and shooting, he is a real weapon coming inside from that left-wing position.
United may well interchange and swap positions, though, as in recent matches, Rashford has played in a central position, with Weghorst in the number 10 role and Sancho/Garnacho and Fernandes as wide players. This tactic is helpful because Weghorst is a player who often compensates through industry for a relative lack of quality. Playing in the number 10 role allows him to pressure the opponent’s defensive midfielder and come deeper to get involved in midfield areas. We have seen this often in recent matches – Weghorst winning the ball or being a nuisance in deeper regions, allowing United to release the flyers.
Fernandes will also be crucial again. The Portuguese man has sometimes been criticised for trying the Hollywood ball too often, denying United a measure of control in games. This claim carries weight, but there is no denying that Fernandes can break the lines with his superb final ball and passing. As such, he remains a massive threat and a key man for United coach Erik Ten Hag. United have some talent on the bench, too, as the speedy Garancho can come on. Also, Martial and Antony might be fit again after injuries.
Barcelona will Miss Pedri and Gavi, But Will Still Try To Attack
Barcelona travel to Manchester with injury and suspension woes regarding their two young midfield starlets, Pedri and Gavi. The former suffered a hamstring injury in the first leg, which will keep him out, and Gavi is suspended after being booked in the first game. The good news for them is that veteran defensive midfielder Busquets is back. Well, we say good news, but some Barcelona fans have said that the Spaniard is on his last legs at 34. Never the most mobile, Busquets has always used his positioning, exemplary technique, and press resistance to flourish in midfield. However, he can certainly be targeted on transitions and bypassed by United’s pacey attackers.
Busquets needs legs around him, so Kessie and the technically gifted De Jong must run with the ball and keep it in tight areas with Busquets, popping it off between them and trying to play their way through little gaps and win 50/50 balls. If they succeed, they can find ways to come onto the United full-backs and Martinez and Varane at centre-back. However, Casemiro transforms this United team. He will be difficult to bypass with his fantastic knack for sensing danger.
Barcelona might get chances, and we expect Fati or Torres to come in at left wing and the flying Balde at left back to support whoever is selected. They and Raphinha must dribble and attack the full-backs, trying to come inside onto the United defence to create chances for the lethal Lewandowski. Barcelona’s passing, dribbling and cute little one-twos could unsettle the United defence. The injured Dembele is still a massive miss, however.
The Threat of Rashford
Rashford is having the best season of his career. Indeed, he has been on fire with a personal-best total of 24 goals so far. In the league alone, he has scored ten goals in ten games since the World Cup, and this doesn’t include his exploits in the domestic cups. He proved he could perform well on the big stage again with his goal in the first leg and his beautiful mazy dribble to create the second. Being able to play in either the number 9 or left-wing position, Rashford’s pace and excellent shooting are massive weapons in transitions, and he has added creative dribbling to his bow.
Indeed, Rashford’s technique seems tidier these days from what we have observed. He used to need space to operate, but now his touch seems tighter and more cultured. He has the freedom to move around the park and is clearly Ten Hag’s most important player in attack. In this game, he will be a colossal threat again to Barcelona, and Kounde and Araujo must deal with him better than they did last week. Let us be clear – Rashford alone could decide this tie (as could Lewandowski on the other side).
United have won 15 and drawn two of their last 17 home games. Therefore, Old Trafford is starting to show signs of being a fortress again after almost ten years when United were a shadow of their former selves. On the other hand, Barcelona have only won three of their last nine away games in Europe. Barca are, however, on an 18-match unbeaten streak, so they will fancy their chances of taking this tie at least to penalties. We are sure both sides will want to win and finish this in 90 minutes, particularly as both have such a gruelling schedule.
Xavi will want his team to go to Old Trafford and try to control the game. They may well do this, but it certainly plays into United’s threat on transitions when they win the ball. The game could be decided by a moment of magic from the likes of Torres, Raphinha, Fati, Fernandes, Sancho, or Garnacho. However, Rashford and Lewandowski are the likeliest game-changers here.
United will have one eye on the weekend’s Carabao Cup Final. They then have matches in the FA Cup at home to West Ham and in the league against bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield. This fixture congestion should test both teams’ relatively thin squads. United, too, tend to have trouble with Spanish sides. However, despite feeling confident for Barcelona before the tie, the first-leg performance of United impressed and even surprised us. They arguably outplayed Barca in Camp Nou. Given how strong United have been at home, they can finish the job and qualify for the round of 16.
Man Utd 2-1 Barcelona
Man Utd vs Barcelona Betting Tip – Man Utd Odds:
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