Barcelona, Spain | Xinhua | FC Barcelona travel to Old Trafford on Thursday aiming to keep their European ambitions alive when they take on Manchester United in the second leg of their Europa League tie.
Barca still have options in the tournament after a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou last week, despite being under pressure from United for long periods of the match, and Raphinha’s equalizer from a cross that deceived everyone to end up in the net has left the tie in the balance.
However, if Barca want to avoid another painful (and expensive) early exit from Europe, they will have to end Manchester United’s impressive form at Old Trafford, where the English side is unbeaten in its last 17 home matches; the last time United were beaten at home was against Spanish opposition when Real Sociedad beat them 1-0 on September 8th.
There is good and bad news for Barca on the injury front, with Sergio Busquets available after missing the first leg with an ankle injury. Busquets’ control in midfield will be important as Barca look to control their rivals’ pace on the break.
Xavi Hernandez will be without the young midfielders, Pedri and Gavi, with Pedri suffering a hamstring strain in the first leg, that will keep him out for another month, while Gavi is suspended, meaning Barca will be without his tigerish presence.
Franck Kessie or Sergi Roberto can be expected to fill in alongside Busquets and Frenkie de Jong, with both playing well in the weekend win at home to Cadiz.
Marcus Rashford was United’s main threat last week in Camp Nou, as his pace caused Barca all sorts of problems. The England striker has 23 goals in all competitions this season — his career best, and looks full of confidence.
United are without injured Christian Eriksen, Anthony Martial and Antony dos Santos, but Marcel Sabitzer is available after suspension ruled him out last week.