Barcelona host Man Utd on Thursday night in the Europa League at Camp Nou. The sides last met in 2019 in the Champions League as Blaugrana won 1-0 and 3-0 in the two legs. Xavi’s side looks set to win La Liga thanks to their rock-solid defence whilst United have been playing well over recent months under Ten Hag.
Barcelona dropped down into the Europa League having finished third in their Champions League group. They were beaten away at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan and then thrashed 3-0 at home by Bayern too. Their results since that latter defeat on matchday five have been outstanding. They have played 16 matches in all competitions in that time, winning 14, drawing one and having another draw which then won on penalties.
They sit top of La Liga with an 11-point lead having played one more match than Real Madrid. Xavi’s side have conceded an incredible seven goals in 21 league fixtures. Their two most recent results were a 3-0 thrashing of Sevilla – with all the goals being scored in the second half – and a 1-0 win against Villarreal as Pedri got the winner.
Barcelona Team News
Xavi will be without injured holding midfielder Sergio Busquets for this match. Frenkie De Jong will start against the club that tried so hard to sign him this summer. Winger Ousmane Dembele is out for this match due to an injury.
With Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati not in top form, Barca could again use Xavi down the left and Raphinha down the right. That opens a space for Franck Kessie to start in the midfield three.
Barcelona are expected to play their best XI and be highly motivated for this match. There are certain to finish in the Champions League places in La Liga so winning this competition will be purely for the silverware on offer.
Xavi’s side are extremely solid defensively and controls games with possession and a safe positional structure. They won’t open up in this one with the pace of Rashford to worry about.
Man Utd Form
United have lost just once in 17 competitive matches and have largely been playing well for a number of months. After the World Cup, they defended solidly (and had some VAR assistance) to beat Man City 2-1. However, they then threw away a 1-0 lead to draw in injury time to Crystal Palace before being outclassed in a 3-2 loss at Arsenal.
Three domestic cup wins followed before beating Crystal Palace 2-1 in the league. They then came from 2-0 down at home to draw 2-2 with Leeds in a relatively poor performance despite statistical domination. In this last match, goals in the 80th and 85th minute sealed a 2-0 away win at Leeds.
Man Utd Team News
Erik Ten Hag welcome back Casemiro from a domestic suspension to start this match vs a club he faced many times with Real Madrid. Marcel Sabitzer is out suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards in the Champions League for Bayern Munich. Fred is set to start with Christian Eriksen injured and Scott McTominay doubtful.
Lisandro Martinez also misses this match due to suspension so it’ll be one of Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof or Luke Shaw who plays alongside Raphael Varane. Jadon Sancho could get another start whilst Marcus Rashford could be used as a striker with Wout Weghorst having a little recent impact, and both Anthony Martial and Antony due to late fitness tests.
Man Utd Motivation
United will take this competition very seriously, as shown by Ten Hag’s strong lineups in the group stages. They will want to secure Champions League qualification by trying to win the Europa League.
They will be relatively circumspect in this match, with it being a first leg and against a top opponent. We saw a more pragmatic approach in games against Liverpool, Arsenal, and City earlier this season with three victories.
Barcelona have conceded just 7 goals in 21 La Liga matches this season
Barcelona are 16 matches unbeaten in all competitions: 14 wins & 2 draws
Barca have won 5 of their last 6 matches by a 1 goal margin
Man Utd have won all 3 of their away Europa League matches this season
Man Utd have lost their 2 matches against Barcelona to nil (2019)
This should be an intriguing match. Assuming both sides select their best XI, it is a difficult one to predict. Barcelona barely concedes goals but are not that free-flowing so a low-scoring fixture could be seen.
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at 2.00
Alternative Bet: Barcelona win to zero at 3.25
Multiplier Leg: Barcelona win/draw double chance + under 3.5 goals at 1.86