PREVIEW l FC Barcelona v Manchester United

PREVIEW l FC Barcelona v Manchester United

Thursday at 6.45pm CET brings the first part of a Europa League play-off that promises to be a fabulous encounter

Runaway leaders of La Liga, and into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, Thursday at 6.45pm CET bring s a massive change of focus for FC Barcelona as they take on Manchester United in the play-off round of the Europa League.

Spotify Camp Nou is the venue, where it is fundamental that Barça get a good result to defend at Old Trafford in seven days time.

Don't forget that it's an earlier kick-off than usual for a European fixture, and that the broadcasters are not necessarily the same as they were for the Champions League. Our guide should help point you in the right direction.

Team news

Xavi Hernández has two major injury concerns for this one. Captain Sergio Busquets is out with an ankle injury and in-form winger Ousmane Dembélé is nursing a hamstring problem. But the impressive 1-0 win at Villarreal on Sunday was evidence that this team is plenty good enough to cope, even with two major losses like that.

Man United, in turn, have even more to worry about for none of Eriksen, Martial, Mctominay and Van de Beek are available for this one, and there are question marks over the fitness of new Brazilian star Antony.

United in form

Two of Europe's biggest and most popular clubs go into this game in remarkably similar circumstances. Things have not been going to plan for either of them in recent years. While Barça have not been collecting trophies at the kind of rate they have grown accustomed to of late, it is now five years since any kind of silverware was added to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.

But while there has been a huge upturn in circumstances at Barça since Xavi took over as manager, things are also starting to look up for the Red Devils. After a slow start under Ten Hag, they have just lost one of their last 17 games. Arsenal and Manchester City might be leading the way in the Premiership, but United are not out of the race, and they are also still alive in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League.

Their Europa League campaign started with home defeat to Real Sociedad, but they followed that win wins in all five remaining fixtures (Sheriff and Omonia were the other sides in the group), although it still wasn't quite enough to prevent the Basques from topping the group.

Hence they have gone into this week's play-off round, where the runners-up play against the teams that finished third in their Champions League groups. Barça were edge by Bayern Munich and Inter Milan and as a result dropped into the second-tier competition.

Head to head

There have been six meetings between Barça and United this century, all in the Champions League.

2007-08 Champions League Semi Final
Barça 0-0 United
United 1-0 Barça

2008-09 Champions League Final
Barça 2-0 United

2010-11 Champions League Semi Final
Barça 3-1 United

2018-19 Champions League Quarter Final
United 0-1 Barça
Barça 3-0 United


Two of those were in the final, with Barça winning on both occasions. The last meeting was in 2019, when Barça cruised to a 4-0 win on aggregate. The last time United emerged triumphant was in the semi-final of 2008, when Paul Scholes scored the only goal in the two games.

United have not scored in the Barça stadium since a 3-3 draw back in 1998.

This will be the first time that the two clubs have ever met in the Europa League (or the UEFA Cup as it was called before), although they did meet twice in the old Cup Winners' Cup. United were victorious in the 1983-84 quarter final, turning around a 2-0 defeat in Catalonia by winning 3-0 at Old Trafford. And the English side also got the better of Barça when they met in the final of that competition in 1991, Mark Hughes scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against his former club.

Barça are chasing their first ever win in this tournament, but United have tasted victory before. In 2017 they beat Ajax 2-0 in the final played in Stockholm.

What they're saying

People who have discussed the game this week include Barça's sporting director Jordi Cruyff, who also played for Manchester United, and Danish defender Andreas Christensen.

As well as coach Xavi Hernández as usual, there was also an official UEFA press conference featuring Raphinha on the day before the game.


Força Barça
Força Barça

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