Manchester United face uphill task against Lionel Messi and Barcelona


Manchester United must deal with Lionel Messi and Barcelona if they want to move a step closer to their first Championship League trophy since 2008.

The Red Devils last major European triumph came in 2017 as they beat Ajax 2-0 in Slovenia in the Europa League. However, United reached the latter stages of this season’s UEFA Champions League with a stunning comeback victory over PSG.

United travelled to Paris needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit, but the Ligue 1 giants collapsed and were eventually knocked out after Marcus Rashford’s controversial stoppage time penalty ensured victory on away goals and broken French hearts.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side were drawn arguably the toughest opponent for the quarter-finals as they take on Ernesto Valderde’s Barcelona.

The Catalan side all-but wrapped up their 26th La Liga title with a 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Saturday, extending their lead at the summit to eleven points with seven matches left.

Messi’s astronomical form has been a key factor in Barcelona’s recent fortunes, and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will have to keep close tabs on the Argentine should he have aspirations of avoiding defeat at Old Trafford.

The Barcelona striker has scored thirteen goals, and created a further four, in his previous ten goals and will be largest threat to the United defence.

Neither side have any suspension concerns. Paul Pogba is eligible for selection having served his one-match ban in United’s second-leg victory at the Stade de France.

United have had eight days to recover from their previous outing, a defeat at Wolves. Marcus Rashford (ankle) and Ander Herrera (knock) were both absent on that day but could feature on Wednesday night.

Solksjaer will, however, be without Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Alexis Sanchez.

Ousmane Dembele (hamstring) could make a late surge for selection, though he may be more likely to feature in the second leg on April 16, whilst utility man Rafinha is out for the season.

United boss Solksjaer admitted that the Red Devils have plenty to improve upon from their defeat to Wolves.

“Oh, many, many things we have to improve, of course, because they are a top, top side,” Solskjaer told reporters.

“But we’ll use one or two days now to analyse and recover. And we’ll prepare for Barcelona, which will be a fantastic challenge for the club and for the team.”

Meanwhile, former Liverpool midfielder Phillippe Coutinho said that his affinity to the Merseysiders means that he has personal attractions to the fixture.

“If they boo myself and Luis Suarez, then that’s normal at Old Trafford because of the team we used to play for, but it won’t make any difference to me,” he told the Spanish media.

“And, even more than that, it is an incentive to play better and to be even more focused.

“I know that games against Manchester United are special. I learned what they meant during my time at Liverpool when we lived it so intensely with the fans.

“I have that nailed in my memory and, even though this is a different stage, if Barcelona knock United out of Europe, it will be a double personal satisfaction for me.”


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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