We are in the thick of the best week of the year so far for football fans, with at least one huge game played each day. Liverpool’s win over Everton in Monday’s Merseyside Derby set the tone before the Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday heralds the return of the Europa League, and we head right into the playoff round when the runners-up from each group play the third-place finishers from the Champions League. There’s plenty to keep followers entertained, but the game of the day comes from Spain, where two giants of European football renew rivalries.
Barcelona host Man Utd at the Camp Nou in this first leg, with both sides hoping to gain an advantage before the return leg at Old Trafford. Which team will win the game? You can have your say by making predictions at 22bet. Before picking sides, you can read our expert, in-depth preview as we bring you up to speed on the latest news from both camps, relevant form, past meetings, and more. We also provide a prediction you are welcome to follow if you agree with our thinking. We aim to arm readers with the information needed to make an informed decision on this match.
Barca and the Red Devils have met 13 times in the past, with the home team dominating the stats at this stage. Barcelona has six wins, four games ending in a draw, and three victories for the English Premier League team. The most recent match was played in the Champions League almost four years ago when the Spaniards won 3-0 at home and 4-0 on aggregate. The visitors are expected to be much more competitive this time but know they have their work cut out in getting a result on the road.
Barca drop a level
Barcelona started playing in the Champions League this season, hoping to make it to the knockout stages. Given their recent off-field problems, which include losing Lionel Messi to PSG in an attempt to help balance the books, it was always deemed unlikely the Spaniards would go and win this trophy again in spring, and that proved to be a smart call. A tough challenge got even more complicated when it dropped into Group C alongside Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. The Germans won the pool at a canter, claiming a maximum 18 points, with the Italians 10 points behind in second.
Barcelona’s record in the top tier saw them win two, draw one and lose their other three games, scoring a dozen goals while conceding the same number. It certainly wasn’t this world-famous club’s best effort in the tournament, but it was a step in the right direction and a sign that Barca is well along the road to recovery. The seven points claimed left Barca in third place, above bottom club Viktoria Plzen who failed to land a point. The third-place finish meant Barca was out of the running but did enjoy the safety net of dropped into the Europa League, a tournament they’re good enough to win.
The home team is top of La Liga, enjoys an 11-point lead over derby rivals, and current champions Real Madrid in second. The La Liga pace-setters enjoyed an eye-catching winning run and were last seen beating Villarreal 1-0 on the road at the weekend. Pedri scored the winning goal in that game in 18 minutes, and although the victors had chances to score more goals and increase their lead, they seemed to settle for the narrow advantage with one eye on Thursday’s fixture. They must play better here as United present a sterner challenge.
United finished second in Group E
Manchester United is set on a top-four finish in the Premier League and a spot in next season’s Champions League. They can give themselves a safety net by winning the Europa League and going into the group stages of UEFA’s elite competition. But there’s a long way to go on that front, and the team must improve on what they showed during the group campaign of this tournament. United finished second behind another Spanish team in Real Sociedad, surprising many pundits.
Stats of five wins and one loss gave United 15 points, equal to the tally posted by group winners Sociedad who progressed on goal difference as they finished with +8 while United was +7. United lost their first game of the group and won the other five, while Sociedad won its first game outings but lost the last leg. It wasn’t the result Man Utd wanted, as winning the pool would’ve handed them an easier draw in the Round of 16, but their fate remains in their hands. Beating Barcelona would send a statement of intent to their rivals.
In the English Premier League, Man Utd continue to hold their own, and despite currently being third in the ladder, they are currently just five points off the pace set by Arsenal. The Gunners host the champions in midweek, and United fans will have one eye on the result of that game before turning their attention to their trip to Spain. Results this week will impact United’s strategy for the rest of the season. We last saw the visitors at the weekend when beating Leeds 2-0 at Elland Road and are now unbeaten in three.
Barcelona v Man Utd prediction
This game can potentially steal the limelight from the Champions League fixtures, and armchair fans hope it lives up to the hype. Barca has the home advantage, and the stats suggest they’ll claim another win, but there’s confidence about the Red Devils, and they’ll arrive at Camp Nou believing they can win the match and take a lead back to Old Trafford.
Europa League odds
22bet members can predict this match’s outcome with over 100 pre-game and in-play betting options. Barcelona is available at 1.715 in the match-winner market, with the draw trading at 3.94. Man Utd can be backed for an away win at 4.62.
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