Tonight is the big one. It may be a Europa League game, but it’s worthy of being a Champions League Final. Two of the most historic teams in the game. And two of the the worlds most inform teams right now face off in the knockout rounds of the 2023 Europa League. Live tonight at 6:45pm local time, from the Spotify Camp Nou. Barça face off against Manchester United.
It is by far our biggest game of the season so far. Against what is a very impressive team. It’s going to be a very tricky game, but we’ll be hoping to put in a convincing performance and come away from the game with a positive result. Let’s jump straight into it.
A quick look at our opponents:
Manchester United and Barça share quite a lot of similarities when it comes to the state of the two teams. Both are at the beginning stages of a rebuilding process. With both aspiring to reach the pinnacle of world football once again. Something that has been missing for many years.
Us and united have been two of the most inform teams in world football at this moment. Both flying high with belief and excitement for the future of their respective clubs. And finally, with both being led by two of the most talented young coaches, Xavi and Ten Hag. The latter has been at united for just over 8 months and has done a very good job so far in picking up a broken team.
From an outsiders point of view, selling Ronaldo in the last window was one of the best decisions they could’ve made. And has really allowed Ten Hag to push on with the rebuild. He’s built a team that is very difficult to beat, whilst also being able to play good football too. However they do have their flaws, just like any team and haven’t got a relatively deep squad either. Nonetheless, its going to be one of our biggest tests of the season so far.
When you look at form going into the game, United, in their last 5 league games, have won twice, drawn twice and lost once. With their most recent result coming as a 2-0 victory away at Leeds. Although they did draw at Old Trafford 2-2 to the very same opponent, a couple days before. Manchester United scored a total of 38 goals league goals, 5 less than Barça. And conceded a total of 28 league goals- 21 more than us.
Marcus Rashford is obviously the main man to keep an eye on. No one has scored more goals than him since the World Cup in all the top 5 European leagues. But of course they also have players like Bruno Fernandes and of course Casemiro. A player we know only too well from Real Madrid. Those three in particular are key to how United operate, so limiting their influence as much as possible is something we need to do. But of course, its going to be a tricky game overall. We’re gonna need the power from the fans at the Camp Nou to get us through.
In terms of the lineup, I don’t see anything changing from how we lined up on the weekend against Villarreal. The only real switch that could happen would be the right back position. Of course Kounde is the regular there, but against players like Rashford, Xavi has preferred to deploy Araujo there. Similar to how he usually does against Vinicius Junior in El Clasico. So for me, that’s the only real question in how we setup. Other than that, I expect it to be the same as on Sunday.
A midfield four of Pedri, Gavi, Frenkie and Kessie. With Lewandowski up top alongside Raphinha. Who of course has played against United many times before. So hopefully that experience will come in useful for him. And then as we progress through the game, we’ve got players like Ansu, Ferran and Alarcon who can come on and hopefully make a positive impact. One thing that has to happen is the start for Balde.
In the Champions League a more experienced player like Alonso or Alba was preferred. But Balde has to keep his place in the team. Alba was very impressive against Sevilla and can definitely play a part in the game. But we are going to need the explosive power of Balde, especially considering the threat in behind. And also the fact that we’re going to be without Dembele. His overlapping runs are going to be vital.
My starting lineup:
Araujo- Kounde- Christensen- Balde
Pedri- Frenkie- Kessie- Gavi