20-time English league champion Manchester United will be welcoming Spanish La Liga giant and the current leader Barcelona to Old Trafford, for a heavyweight clash in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League Play-Off fixture. Both sides traded blows in the first leg, in which the Red Devils were close to record a famous first win at Camp Nou, after they bounced back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1, but Raphinha’s strike meant they will start the second 90 minutes on all square.
United Only Beat Barca Once in 11 Previous Meetings
The draw at Barcelona’s home meant Manchester United only managed one win in 11 trials against the Catalan giants, lost and drew five times each, including four consecutive defeats prior to the first leg of this UEFA Europa League Play-Off match-ups last week; The Red Devils’ sole victory over Barca came in the 2007/2008 Season, where a Paul Scholes’s thunderous shot separated the two. Past history and statistics do not favour the home side this time around, but Barcelona’s former player and current manager certainly do not look down on the United side now managed by Dutch coach Erik ten Hag.
The ex Spanish midfield maestro went on to call the current Red Devils as one of the best teams in Europe, and he would expect a difficult game when his men face the 20-time Premier League winner at enemy territory tonight. Xavi also added that United players are now filled with confidence and playing to their usual high standards. The response read “The players and camp now, they showed a lot of personality, lots of passion. They had a great rhythm of play. So we have to match that whether they play. We know that’s a tough stadium to go to and it’ll be difficult for us, and they have, you know, great fans that will, will them on”.
Erik ten Hag, on the other hand, is ready for the major challenges ahead and is not shy about his intention to hunt down silverwares for United in his first season in charge. He said: “We all want to play big games, big matches. When we are young, we dream of it. We are now in a position through February [to have] big games coming up. We really enjoy it. We are really looking forward to it. We’re really excited, and we have to give our best, because we want to match with the best.” The 53-year-old Dutchman also reminded United to not underestimate its visitors tonight, after the side lost both midfield prodigies Gavi and Pedri to suspension and injury.
Harry Maguire and Antony are back in full team training ahead of Manchester United’s second leg Europa League tie with Barcelona 🔙pic.twitter.com/kIkDD1HUCH
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 22, 2023
Men of the Hour: Rashford and Lewandowski
Manchester United would be counting on their hero of the season, 25-year-old England striker Marcus Rashford to deliver again tonight, as the Manchester-born star had scored 16 goals in addition to his five assists in all of the Red Devils’ 18 matches since the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The former United academy graduate had already broken his own scoring record after a brace against Leicester City last weekend, and will look forward to further improve his season tally of 24 goals to better heights.
As for the Spanish La Liga league leader, its star talisman Robert Lewandowski would be eager to score against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Polish international scored an equal amount of goals for Barcelona this season, after sealing a move to the Catalan giants last summer. Furthermore, his goal scoring record in Europe competitions will motivate him to beat the United defence, with 38 goals had already been recorded in his last 32 appearances in major European competitions.
Both strikers will be going head-to-head to break past the opposing goal, but who will emerge as the winner in this win-or-go-home second leg? Tell us why.
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