Barcelona and Manchester United face off in Thursday’s Europa League elimination phase playoffs first leg. After finishing second in Group E, the Red Devils face La Liga leaders Barcelona, who are on a roll. Xavi’s team has won all 16 matches since losing to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but Erik ten Hag’s United are on a roll too.
Barcelona vs Manchester United
Man United are unbeaten in their previous five matches in all competitions thanks to Marcus Rashford’s form, but they’ll need more than that to fix their midfield woes. United’s defense will face Robert Lewandowski despite Barca’s team attack. If they control him, they focus on Pedri. That’s the challenge. Xavi has gotten the best out of Barca this season, establishing a margin atop La Liga.
Xavi has many match choices with his near-perfect health. Raphinha should start since he knows Manchester United. Ousmane Dembele won’t be ready. Sergio Busquets will also miss the encounter, but Gavi’s midfield strength will make up for it. United’s midfield will benefit from Casemiro’s availability since his suspension doesn’t apply to European matches.
Alejandro Garnacho may start on the wing in a crucial duel since Anthony Martial is still absent, and Antony may be too young. Scott McTominay won’t play either, but Casemiro helps United. Luke Shaw will play both ends, and David De Gea will have to make many saves so that the defense will have everyone available.
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)