Manchester United vs. Barcelona -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.
The two European powerhouses, who met in the Champions League final just 12 years ago, drew 2-2 last week at Camp Nou, and a thrilling matchup is anticipated at the Theatre of Dreams.
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 to the hot-shot Marcus Rashford, whose close-range finish came before Jules Kounde’s own-goal-turned-cross.
Raphinha’s ball into the box, which evaded everyone before nestling into the bottom corner, ensured that everything would still be up for grabs at Old Trafford, and interest would have been piqued had Erik ten Hag not used the word “rubbish” to describe his team’s performance against Leicester City on Sunday.
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 at the half thanks to a goal from Marcus Rashford, who later added a second goal before Jadon Sancho completed the scoring for a 3-0 Premier League victory that leaves them only three points behind second-placed Manchester City.
Talk of a possible Premier League title charge is by no means unfounded for the Red Devils, who could technically still end the season with a quadruple, as they also gear up for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Newcastle United and an FA Cup fifth-round tie versus West Ham United.
With a trip to Anfield also to come on March 5, the next fortnight can certainly be described as a season-defining period for Man United, whose unbeaten run in all tournaments stands at eight matches, and they have struck at least two goals in each of their last nine.
Ten Hag’s team has won 14 of their past 15 home games, turning Old Trafford back 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.
For a cash-strapped Barcelona, being dropped to the second division of European football for the second year in a row was nothing short of terrible. They are currently 90 minutes away from another early exit from continental play, albeit this one might not have such severe repercussions.
With Xavi now in charge, Barcelona has a commanding eight-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga standings. At the weekend, Barcelona easily defeated Cadiz 2-0 to get back on track. Sergi Roberto and Robert Lewandowski each scored once.
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, although Xavi’s team has already been defeated by Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at the Allianz Arena and San Siro this year.
Despite Man United’s losing streak of five games against Barcelona dating back to the 2007–08 Champions League semifinals, Barcelona has a history of avoiding defeat. But, for one titan arising from the ashes, hopes of winning a prized piece of European silverware must now come to a stop.
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