Verdict: Barcelona win
Best Odds: 17/20
Barcelona travel to Manchester United for the first leg of their Champions Leaguequarter-final.
Starting with the hosts, while many around Old Trafford were excited by the news that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had joined on a permanent basis last month, Manchester United find themselves in their first tricky patch since the Norweigan’s arrival. Coming off the back of a 2-1 loss away at Wolves last week, the Reds have now lost three of their last four across all competitions and now sit outside the top four in the Premier League. While United have managed to remarkably win just two of their last 11 Champions League knockout ties, Tuesday’s hosts do hold an unbeaten record against Barcelona at Old Trafford. Despite already suffering home defeats against PSG and Juventus in front of their own supporters this season, they are unbeaten in their four previous matches against the La Liga heavyweights. If United are to come away with a much-needed early advantage in midweek, then fans in Manchester will be looking for the inform Marcus Rashford to carry on his eye-catching run of form. Scoring two in his last two, the 21-year-old also scored the goal that knocked PSG out of the tournament last month.
Manchester United were handed a boost with Solskjaer saying he is hopeful Marcus Rashford will be fit following the ankle injury that forced the striker to miss his side’s 2-1 Premier League loss to Wolves.
Defenders Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia remain unavailable while Ander Herrera is unlikely to recover in time to face Barcelona, but midfielder Nemanja Matic could also make the team.
As for the visitors, coming off the back of a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid last weekend, Barcelona are now within touching distance of securing a 26th La Liga title. With Ernesto Valverde’s side now enjoying a 19-match unbeaten run in Spain’s top-tier, a run that stems all the way back to November, the former European champions marched through the group stage unbeaten and also put five past Lyon to book their spot in their 17th Champions League quarter-final. Unsurprisingly, one man to watch for the visitors will be five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi. Once again leading the La Liga goalscoring charts with 33 goals this season, 13 more than any other player in Spain’s top-tier, the Argentinian marksman has a particularly outstanding record against English opposition. Messi has scored 22 Champions League goals in 30 appearances against English teams – more than any other player in the history of the competition.
The Catalans announced their travelling squad on Monday, and confirmed that injury doubt Ousmane Dembele would make the trip to Manchester.
Key Factors to Consider-
- This is the first Champions League meeting between Barcelona and Manchester United since the 2011 final, which Barcelona won 3-1 at Wembley.
- Manchester United have never lost a home European match against Barcelona (W2 D2 L0), with this the first meeting between the sides at Old Trafford since the second leg of the 2007-08 Champions League semi-final, a 1-0 win for the Reds.
- Manchester United have won two of their past 11 Champions League knockout ties (W2 D3 L6), failing to win either of their quarter-final games in the 2013-14 season under David Moyes against Bayern Munich.
- This is Barcelona’s 17th Champions League quarter-final appearance, a joint-record with Bayern Munich; they have qualified for an 12th successive season, a competition record.
- Barcelona have progressed from 79% of their Champions League knockout ties when playing the first leg away from home (23 of 29), compared with just 33% when playing the first leg at home (four of 12).
While Manchester United do hold an unbeaten record against Barcelona at Old Trafford, the La Liga outfit will travel to Manchester filled with confidence. Enjoying a remarkable run of form in Europe and with Tuesday’s hosts starting to show some minor struggles, we’re backing Ernesto Valverde’s side to come away with the early advantage.
Verdict: Barcelona win
Best Odds: 17/20
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