A place in the semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition awaits. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United host La Liga leaders, Barcelona at Old Trafford in a mouth-watering clash.
United’s reward for a stunning Champions League comeback against PSG is the chance to pit wits against Lionel Messi and Barcelona.
Manchester United headed to Paris needing to overturn a 2-0 home defeat in their round-of-16 tie. Marcus Rashford’s injury-time penalty secured a remarkable 3-1 win to send United through on away goals.
Messi has scored 13 goals and set up another four in his last 10 games. Now, Solskjaer’s job will be to prevent the Argentine magician and other stars from lighting up Old Trafford.
FORM: MAN UNITED
United’s recent form is a major concern ahead of this game. With Messi in sparkling form, Barca are looking almost unstoppable. As a result, there should be plenty of interest in backing an away win, which BetBiga.com is offering great odds on.
The feel-good factor around United following their dramatic win in Paris has been somewhat eroded by three defeats in their last four games.
After a strong defensive run, the Reds have now conceded in seven consecutive matches. It is difficult to envisage them keeping a clean sheet against a side with the firepower of the Blaugrana.
Barcelona are unbeaten in their 16 matches in all competitions. They are heavy favourites heading into this tie. Messi and Luis Suarez should have a field day against United’s defence. It would be smart to put some money on any of both players scoring at BetBiga with Messi the most likely to find the net.
Barcelona have a less than impressive away record in knockout ties in recent years. The Catalans have lost at Atletico, PSG, Juventus and Roma in the latter stages of the UCL with all those defeats coming without Barca scoring.
However, Valverde’s side head to Manchester with the memory of their last trip to England fresh in their minds.
The Catalan side were superb at Wembley in a 4-2 win over Spurs in the group stages. They will be confident about doing the same buoyed by news that Ousmane Dembele is back from injury.
Barcelona travel to Old Trafford as the bookmakers’ favourites despite the fact they’ve failed to win in four trips, losing twice (1984, 2008) and drawing twice (1994, 1998).
United legend Paul Scholes thundered in the only goal when the teams last met in Manchester 11 years ago. Their last clash was a convincing 3-1 triumph in Barca‘s favour at Wembley Stadium in the 2011 final.
That was the last season in which United made it past the quarter-finals of the competition. Solskjaer could be out of his depth after the initial shine of his appointment appears to have dulled slightly. A win on Wednesday would swiftly put some of those doubts to bed.
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. Solskjaer’s tactics appear suited to playing on the counter-attack against possession-based teams.
Valverde’s men are unbeaten in 16 matches, but their recent 4-4 draw Villarreal—where they trailed 4-2 heading in the closing minutes—showed there are chinks in the armour that can be exploited.
The visitors will dominate possession and should create enough chances for them to claim a first leg win in Manchester. But to increase your odds it wouldn’t be a bad idea to place a bet on both teams to score.
PREDICTION: MAN UTD 1-2 BARCELONA