Everything you need to know about Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona
Not much time left for UEFA Champions league draw of the round. And here we are, for what happens to be an enticing affair. After dramatic performance against PSG, Manchester United under Ole Gunner Solskjaer have made it clear, that they are force to be reckon with. Barcelona are still on track for their treble, after another magical night by their talisman against Lyon. First leg is scheduled on Wed April 10 at Old Trafford. Second leg at Camp Nou on April 16. Both at 9PM CET.
Barcelona this season 9/10 times have played with formation 4–3–3, with Messi being in false nine. As much as Ernesto Valverde has been rigid with his formation, Solskjaer on the other hand has been tactically flexible, and has often changed shape of his side against different opposition to allow free style football for his players compared to his predecessor. They have played with 4–3–3, 4–4–2 and sometimes even diamond formation. So far, it has worked for both of the managers.
Style of play
Gone are the glory days for Catalans, with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi no longer threatening with one-touch passing. But if there has to be one team in the entire world who has sticked with their philosophy, no matter which manager they are playing under, it has to be Barcelona. With an average of 64% possession and 2.6 goals per game, they still pretty much dictate the tempo of game. Controlling game with possession football is in their DNA.
United on the other hand play pressing style of football. Being more compact and harder to break down. They may not be playing an attractive offensive football, but even with two defensive midfielders they are definitely not parking the bus. By maintaining high defensive line, helps them to switch the play on either side to create and exploit spaces. They don’t always build their attack from the back. Even when they don’t have ball, they are always hovering around for opportunities, and once they find one, they surge into the box giving no chance to breath for opposition. United has always adapted (or at least tried to) themselves to philosophy of their active Managers.
When you have arguably the best footballer ever, then your squad certainly makes a statement. Lionel Messi pretty much orchestrates the play, and there is no margin for error when the ball is at his feet. Little genius has scored 22 goals against English teams - more than any other player in the history of competition.
Barcelona are at their best when the play is wide open. Both right and left backs act as wingers, not to forget the telepathy between Jordi Alba and Messi. They somehow find each other in unthinkable, unimaginable ways. Barcelona rely on playing ground passes, they often play in triangles ensuring there is always a player who is available to take up the pass, which suffocates the opposition because they hardly give the ball away, even in tight spaces.
Manchester United have never lost against Barcelona at home in Champions League history.
Manchester United on other hand play dynamic football with quick interchanging passes. Their pace certainly edges out Barcelona’s inert defence with young and athletic forwards. United this season has played almost twice the crosses compared to Barcelona. Unlike Barcelona, United wingers don’t hesitate to play aerial crosses into the Box. With likes of Pogba, Smalling, Matic, Lukaku, they can easily make most of set-pieces and corners.
There is no argument that Coutinho is the weakest link on the left wing in current Barcelona squad. He has continued to struggle to adapt himself to Barcelona’s style of play. And the man who can possibly fill this void (Dembélé) is still recovering from injury. With full backs playing high up the field, and in Umtiti’s absence they are more vulnerable than last season. But biggest concern this season has been their Messidependencia. On number of occasions number 10, had to come from the bench, even when he wasn’t fit, to save couple of matches. No one else seems to take up the responsibility and control the play. It’s either Messi or Nobody.
Lionel Messi has failed to score in any of his last 11 quarter-final ties in Champions league.
If there is one department that Reds must invest next season (and they will), it has to be their defence. Messi and Suarez one on one against Smalling, Dallot certainly makes United fans nervous. With two holding midfielders in midfield, burden of creating chances lies on Pogba’s shoulders. As good as player he is, he can’t be at his best day in day out. Alexis Sanchez is far from his expected level, Lukaku on other hand has been having a roller-coaster season. In spite of heavy investment in recent years, an elite club like Manchester United is still devoid of elite footballers.
Barcelona is the only team who have had unbeaten UCL campaign so far with 5 wins and 3 draws.
On Paper, both teams look pretty much evenly balanced. Barcelona will look to maintain a clean cheat at Old Trafford. They will not mind even a goal-less draw. But even if they don’t, United have already outscored opposition in their own home. There is no denial that they have ability to do it once more. But beating Barcelona at Camp Nou has proven next to impossible.
It’s a tough call but with second leg to play at Camp Nou, and Messi on Blaugrana’s side most pundits have voted Barcelona to advance into semi’s and rightly so. On any given day, at both teams at their best, with current squad, they look more probable to succeed.
It’s a 55–45 situation. But Reds have turned the tables against all odds in their previous champions league encounter with their reserved squad. And this time it’s definitely not going to be the same situation. With electrifying atmosphere at Old Trafford on their side, with David de Gea at his best, can the Red Devil rise? Let’s find out.
Time for your predictions
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Courtesy :ESPNFC, Manchester United, FC Barcelona official accounts