After that magical night in Paris, United face an even tougher task as they line up against Barcelona and that magical man: Lionel Messi.
Injury woes have eased since PSG
The result in Paris in the previous round was momentous, not just due to the score line from the first leg but also with the players United had unavailable. Since that fixture; Juan Mata, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard have all returned to action which is huge for Ole Gunner Solskjaer. The Reds have also been given a boost in the news that Marcus Rashford will be fit to take at least some part in the game, whether that be from the start or off the bench remains to be seen as he goes against the clock to be passed fit. Jesse Lingard will slide in to the number 10 role which gives United an added dimension that they really lack when he doesn’t play. If Rashford is fit we could see him start out wide with Anthony Martial holding down the other wing is United opt for an attacking line up. A more conservative approach could see Diogo Dalot start. Romelu Lukaku will lead the line and will most likely be marshalled by Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet, the French centre half is expected to continue over his fellow countryman Samuel Umtiti. Lukaku is the shortest odds of any United player to score, he’s at 8.0 first and 3.0 anytime.
The huge news for United is negative however as despite Paul Pogba’s return they could be left light in midfield. Both Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic have missed training as a result of recent knocks and are now real doubts for this tie. Against a side with players so gifted at finding place; the hosts could be very vulnerable without their midfield enforcers.
This will be one of the factors that see’s The Red Devils priced as outsiders at 3.75 with Barcelona being the favourites at 1.91.
Barca travel to Old Trafford having not been beaten in their last eight Champions League matches and only falling to two defeats in La Liga this campaign. They’ve scored an eye watering 81 goals in the league, which even by their own standards is quite remarkable. They’ve really looked to have returned to their best after some slight wobbles earlier in the season. They’ve been slick, concise and absolutely devastating of late and they’ll be keen to demonstrate that they are still the European powerhouse they are known to be, especially with arch rivals Real Madrid now no longer in the competition, this is Barcelona’s time to bounce back to greatness.
We have to speak about Messi. The diminutive Argentinian is now 31 years old but playing as if he was still in his early twenties and we’ve seen some truly magical moments from him in recent weeks. In particular, several picturesque entries in to his diary of wonderful free kick goals. There is no doubt that United players will be more wary than usual of committing fouls around the box, which is a bit of a double edged sword and could really play in to Barcelona’s hands. Messi has eight goals in the Champions League this campaign, he has 41 in all competitions and has also assisted 15. It’s utterly ludicrous numbers and it’s no surprise to see him at 1.91 to score anytime. In his last trip to the UK we saw a masterclass at Wembley as he dismantled Tottenham almost all by himself. I’m expectant of another big performance from the little man, which leads me to looking at some specials for this game, such as Barcelona to score from outside the box at 3.8, and they’ve got more than just Messi who could land that.
Barcelona to win @ 1.91
Lionel Messi to score first @ 4.0
Over 2.5 goals @ 1.65