Man Utd host Barcelona at Old Trafford in the Europa League on Thursday. The sides drew 2-2 in the first leg and a place in the last 16 of the competition is at stake. Both teams have been in good form for a long time with the hosts scoring freely and Barca having conceded just seven goals in 22 La Liga fixtures.
Man Utd Form
United are in great form and are getting results despite a very busy fixture list and some key injuries and suspensions in recent fixtures. Their last 19 matches have seen just one loss and they’ve scored two or more goals in each of their last nine fixtures too. They’ve won 15 of their last 17 at home with two draws.
After dropping four points across two league matches due to injury-time goals conceded, they won three successive domestic cup games. A double-header against Leeds saw a 2-2 home draw and a 2-0 away win. They then travelled to Barcelona and put up 1.13 xG more than the hosts but couldn’t hold onto a lead and drew 2-2 in the first leg. Over the weekend, a dire first half was followed by a sublime second half as they beat Leicester 3-0 at home.
Man Utd Team News
Erik Ten Hag welcomes back Marcel Sabitzer and Lisandro Martinez for European action after they served bans in the first leg. Casemiro returns to the XI after completing a domestic suspension. Scott McTominay is fit after injury but Christian Eriksen is out. Fred could partner with Casemiro on this one.
Anthony Martial and winger Antony remain injury concerns. United could use Wout Weghorst as either a target man or a number ten with Marcus Rashford’s pace down the middle. Jadon Sancho should start and could even be used centrally with Bruno Fernandes on the right.
Man Utd Motivation
United have a cup final on Sunday but the full focus will be on this match due to its prestige. They will attack Barcelona and look to press high to disrupt their build-up play.
Winning this match in regulation time is a target to avoid the extra time when they only have two rest days before facing Newcastle at Wembley.
Since a 3-0 home thrashing by Bayern Munich in October, Blaugrana are unbeaten and have opened an eight-point gap at the top of La Liga thanks to an insane defensive record of just seven goals leaked in 22 fixtures. They went into the first leg on a six-match winning run in La Liga including winning at Atletico Madrid and Villarreal and thrashing Sevilla 3-0.
They made a handful of changes for their weekend match but beat Cadiz 2-0. One concern is that they’ve been ‘found out’ somewhat by top-level opponents this term as they lost twice to Bayern, 3-1 to Real Madrid, 1-0 away to Inter Milan, and were largely outplayed by Man Utd a week ago.
Barcelona Team News
Xavi rested some key players vs Cadiz ahead of this match. Ronaldo Araujo will return at the back with Eric Garcia having had a start over the weekend. Raphinha, Pedri, and Franck Kessie had partial or full rests over Sunday so will come into this one totally fresh.
Sergio Busquets was back on the bench against Cadiz and may feature as a substitute at Old Trafford. Xavi must decide whether to start Marcos Alonso at centre-back again or if Andreas Christensen will be recalled after a sub role in the first leg.
This is a huge match for the club, who want to win silverware and do better in the Europa League than last season. Their resting of players this past weekend shows how much attention is being given to this fixture. Their trip to Almeria next Sunday won’t prove any distraction.
Barca will look to keep the ball and play on the front foot but Xavi has shown himself to be capable of a pragmatic approach too, using transitions and sitting deeper at times.
Man Utd’s last 10 home EPL matches have seen 9 wins and 2 draws
Man Utd’s Rashford has scored 15 goals in his 16 matches since the World Cup
Man Utd have scored 2+ goals in their last 9 matches (all competitions)
Barcelona have conceded just 7 goals in 22 La Liga matches
Barca are 18 matches unbeaten (W15, D3)
Barcelona are unbeaten in 3 away Europa League matches under Xavi (WWD)
This should be a great game with more goals to enjoy. Man Utd look in great form at home and Rashford should fire them into the next round.
Best Bet: Man Utd to qualify at 1.64
Alternative Bet: Over 3.5 goals at 2.90
Value Bet: Man Utd win and Rashford to score at 3.98