Barcelona and Manchester United will resume their battle at Old Trafford on Thursday night to decide who advances from their Europa League knockout phase playoff encounter after the first leg lived up to the pre-match anticipation.
Even though Marcos Alonso scored the game’s first goal in the first leg with a back post header, Manchester United never lost momentum because of the hot-shot Marcus Rashford, whose close-range finish came before Jules Kounde’s own-goal.
But when Raphinha’s pass into the box eluded everyone and nestled into the bottom corner, the resurgent Blaugrana ensured that everything would still be up for grabs at Old Trafford.
Despite giving up numerous chances to the wasteful Foxes, who were unable to beat an inspired David de Gea, Man United still managed to lead by one goal at the half thanks to Rashford, who doubled his total before Jadon Sancho scored in a 3-0 victory that pulled them within three points of second-place Manchester City.
Additionally, United will prepare for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Newcastle United and a match against West Ham United in the FA Cup fifth round.
The following two weeks, which include a trip to Anfield on March 5 and an unbeaten streak of eight games across all competitions, can undoubtedly be classified as a season-defining stretch for Manchester United, who have scored at least two goals in each of their previous nine games.
Man United Europa League Form: W W W W D
Man United Form (All Competition): W D W D W
At the weekend, Barcelona easily defeated Cadiz 2-0 to get back on track. With Xavi now in charge, Barcelona has a commanding eight-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga standings.
The Catalan powerhouses, who also have an impressive unbeaten run of 18 games—16 of which have ended in victories—travel to Old Trafford, having won each of their last 11 away games across all competitions.
However, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan have already defeated Xavi’s team at the Allianz Arena and San Siro this year.
Ten Hag’s team has won 14 of their last 15 home games, turning Old Trafford into a fortress. But Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid also triumphed at the Theatre of Dreams in 2022; Barcelona would do well to take a page from their Spanish rivals’ book.
Barcelona Europa League Form: D
Barcelona Form (All Competitions): W W W D W
Barcelona's 59 points this season are the second-most points through 22 games in club history 🤯 pic.twitter.com/gSt4qs12vh
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 19, 2023
Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek continue their long-term recoveries. It remains to be seen if Anthony Martial, Harry Maguire, and Antony can overcome their niggles in time for Thursday – the latter’s possible absence should guarantee a recall for Sancho over Alejandro Garnacho.
Marcel Sabitzer and Lisandro Martinez have returned from their continental bans from the first leg.
Early team news: Harry Maguire, Antony and Antony Martial are doubtful to face Barcelona on Thursday. Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer are available after missing the first leg due to European bans. [mu] #mufc
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) February 21, 2023
Barcelona has lost Gavi to an accumulation of yellow cards. At the same time, fellow Kopa Trophy winner Pedri will also be absent with a hamstring injury from the first leg.
The good news is that Ronald Araujo has returned from his domestic suspension. Sergio Busquets was an unused substitute against Cadiz after recovering from an ankle ailment. Nevertheless, Ousmane Dembele will also be out of contention for Thursday’s second leg due to a thigh injury.
Manchester United’s possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Sabitzer; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Weghorst
Barcelona’s possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Alonso, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Kessie; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Fati
Head to Head
In the 14 games played between the two teams, Barcelona has a strong record versus Manchester United in Europe, winning six compared to Manchester United’s three victories.
Time, Date, Venue
Date: Thursday, February 23
Time: 8 pm GMT
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester