The Europa League returns with a massive clash between Barcelona and Manchester United in the first leg of the knockout round playoffs on Thursday. After finishing second in Group E, the Red Devils are treated with facing the La Liga leaders in a Barcelona side that is on a roll. Unbeaten in their last 16 matches since losing to Bayern Munich in Champions League, Xavi’s side has passed every challenge in their path so far, but Erik ten Hag’s United are on a roll of their own.
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Unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions, Man United are riding the hot form of Marcus Rashford to this stage but they’ll need more than good performances from him to paper over their midfield issues. Barca have more of a team attack, but United’s defense will still have their hands full with Robert Lewandowski in the match. If they can keep him in check, then attention shifts to Pedri. That’s what makes this tricky. Any member of the Barca squad can hurt you, which is why Xavi has been able to get the best out of them this season opening a gap atop La Liga.
Here’s our storylines, how you can watch the match and more:
How to watch and odds
- Date: Thursday, Feb. 16 | Time: 12:45 p.m.
- Location: Spotify Camp Nou — Barcelona
- TV and Live stream: Paramount+
- Odds: Barcelona -135; Draw +270; Manchester United +330 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Featured Game | Barcelona vs. Manchester United
Barcelona: With close to a clean bill of health, Xavi has quite a few options to play with in the match. Ousmane Dembele won’t be ready to go for this match but this is a good game for Raphinha to start due to being familiar with Manchester United. Sergio Busquets will also miss the match but with Gavi being strong at the base of the midfield, this isn’t as big of a loss in years past.
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Manchester United: Casemiro will be available for this match since his suspension won’t apply to European matches, which is quite a boost to the United midfield. Anthony Martial is still ruled out while the match will also likely come too soon for Antony which could see Alejandro Garnacho be handed a start on the wing in a critical matchup. Midfield depth is still an issue as Scott McTominay also won’t be available for selection but the presence of Casemiro goes a long way to making United tick. The defense will have everyone available as Luke Shaw will need to contribute at both ends and David De Gea will be forced to make quite a few saves in the match.
Barcelona struggled against tough opposition in Champions League play, but this is a different side as they’ll have too much to handle at home for Manchester United to keep up with. Pick: Barcelona 2, Manchester United 1