Manchester United's reward for a stunning Champions League comeback against PSG is the chance to work out how to stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona. Man Utd headed to Paris needed to overturn a 2-0 home defeat in their round-of-16 tie against the French giants, and Marcus Rashford's injury-time penalty secured a remarkable 3-1 win to send United through to the quarter-finals on away goals.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils have been handed arguably the toughest possible draw in the last eight as they take on LaLiga Barcelona, with Messi in sensational form as Ernesto Valverde's Blaugrana all but wrapped up the Spanish title race with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Satuday. Messi has scored 13 goals and set up another four in his last 10 games, and now Solskjaer's job will be to prevent Argentine magician from lighting up Old Trafford.
Manchester United have seen their chances of success this season take a big blow over the last few weeks, with a loss away to Arsenal marking the beginning of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first really tough spell of results. They have followed that by being beaten by Wolves twice, one of which knocked them out of the FA Cup and the other which severely damaged their top four aspirations. Now, their attentions turn towards an incredibly difficult Champions League quarter final tie with Barcelona. The odds are stacked against the Red Devils, but after what happened in Paris last month, nobody is ruling anything out right now.
Since Solskjaer took charge back in December, Manchester United have won 15, drawn two, and lost four of their 21 competitive matches. They have only lost once at Old Trafford, although that was a 2-0 defeat to PSG in the first leg of their last 16 tie. Barcelona are even tougher opponents than the wealthy Parisians. They lead the La Liga table by 11 points coming into this game, and their 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the weekend made it eight wins from their last 10 matches in all competitions.
That being said, they haven’t always had it their own way in the Champions League. They were held to a goalless draw in the first leg of their last 16 tie with Lyon, and both Inter Milan and Spurs took points off them in the group stages earlier this season. Despite the wealth of attacking talent on display on Wednesday, we’re actually expecting a rather tight and cagey affair. Neither team will want to give any ground to the opposition, and previous outings suggest that a low scoring match could be on the cards.
For example, all four of Manchester United’s home games in the Champions League this season have seen fewer than three goals scored, including low scoring defeats to both Juventus and PSG. Barcelona, meanwhile, have seen fewer than three goals in half of their Champions League outings this season, including four of their last six.
Manchester United: France international, Paul Pogba is free to return after serving his one-match ban during United's win in Paris. Marcus Rashford (ankle) and Ander Herrera (knock) were both absent from United's recent defeat at Wolves, but could be fit to return.
Solskjaer will be missing Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Alexis Sanchez.
Barcelona: Ousmane Dembele has a chance of returning from a hamstring injury, though he may be more likely to feature in the second leg on April 16 with Valverde unlikely to take any risks with the young forward.
Rafinha is out for the season, while Luis Suarez was an injury doubt after being ruled for 15 days from 18 March with an ankle problem but he has shaken that off and he played their last two games in the La Liga.
Manchester United possible XI: David De Gea, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial
Barcelona possible XI: Andre Marc-ter Stegen; Sergio Roberto, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo; Philippe Coutinho, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez
HEAD TO HEAD RECORDS
Man Utd and Barca have met 11 times in Uefa competitions, with Barca edging United with four wins to three, and four draws between the clubs. United got the better of Barca in the 2007-08 Champions League semi-finals as Paul Scholes' Old Trafford rocket secured a win en route to lifting the trophy that year.
However, Barca have since got their own back and then some, beating United in both the 2009 and 2011 Champions League Finals at Wembley.
Man Utd 1-2 Barcelona
It is almost impossible to predict anything other than a Barcelona win if Messi is on form - and that would be the same against any other club team in the world. As with their stunning last-16 win over PSG, United may well have more joy on the road than at Old Trafford, with Solskjaer's tactics suited to playing on the counter-attack against possession-based teams.
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