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Monday, March 20, 2023

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona Preview & Prediction

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If the first leg is any indication, we’re in for another football extravaganza at Old Trafford on Thursday night. Away goals are no longer allowed, so the 2-2 draw in Spain last week means it’s winner-take-all as Manchester United and Barcelona meet in the second leg of their Europa League knockout round playoff tie.

Barcelona are on course for their first LaLiga title since Lionel Messi’s departure, and Erik ten Hag has Manchester United back in the Champions League places, knocking on Manchester City and Arsenal’s Premier League doors. A Europa League title would be nice for either team, but their goals are much higher.This match is an opportunity to show the world that these two clubs are back and serious about business.

Manchester United have only lost two of their last 11 European games at Old Trafford (W6 D3), with both defeats coming against Spanish opponents: 0-1 against Atlético Madrid in March 2022 and 0-1 against Real Sociedad in September 2022.

Barcelona has recently gotten the better of Manchester United, going unbeaten in their last three meetings (W2 D1 L0), outscoring the English side 6-2 during this run. The Red Devils are looking for their first victory in this series since April 2019.

Barcelona has previously faced Manchester United in European competition five times away from home. After failing to win any of the first four (D2 L2), they won 1-0 in April 2019 (UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg) before decimating United at Camp Nou with a couple of Messi goals.

With Sergio Busquets and Pedri injured and Gavi suspended, Barcelona is missing their entire midfield. Ousmane Dembele has returned to training but may not be ready to play.

Meanwhile, Casemiro’s suspension in the Premier League meant he missed the weekend match against Leicester City, but he returns to face a team he faced 13 times with Real Madrid. United will be without Anthony Martial, Harry Maguire, Christian Eriksen, and Donny van de Beek, as well as Antony, Christian Eriksen, and Donny van de Beek.

Is there anything more certain in football right now than a Marcus Rashford goal?He has 10 Premier League goals in his last ten games, including the equaliser at the Camp Nou last Thursday night after Marcos Alonso had given Barcelona the lead.

Rashford has 24 goals in 36 games across all competitions in 2022-23, with a career-best shot conversion rate of 22.6% and a minutes per goal ratio of 113. Those 24 goals already tie United’s top scorer from last season, Cristiano Ronaldo (24) in all competitions. No player from Europe’s top five leagues has more goals (16) or shots on target since the return of football following the 2022 World Cup (30).

These are peak Lionel Messi or Ronaldo numbers, two players with long histories with their respective clubs. Rashford has always had the potential to be a star, but he is now living up to that potential, and it has been incredible to watch.


Manchester United 2-1 FC Barcelona

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