Champions League: Manchester United vs Barcelona

The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals is complete. Manchester United is set to meet Barcelona. Overcoming insurmountable odds against Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16, M. United hopes to overcome another major challenge and advance to the final four for the first time since 2011. Meanwhile, Barcelona is looking to advance to the final four for the first time in four years.

Barcelona currently tops the La Liga standings. They lead La Liga in goals scored(73). In Champions League play, they’re fourth in scoring(19). Lionel Messi is currently in a tie for the top scorer position with eight goals so far. In La Liga play, Messi is the top scorer with 29 goals followed by teammate Luis Suarez who has 18. Barcelona’s on fire and has no intention of cooling down. They’d love nothing more than to blaze right into the final four of the Champions League.

M. United is fifth in the Premier League. They’re fourth in goals scored(58), fifth in attack shots(411), and third on shots-on-target(188). It’s been a roller coaster of a season for M. United. At this point, they’ve got nothing to lose and can’t go down without a fight.

M. United has to come with all guns loaded. The defense is in for handful as going against Messi, Suarez, and Phillipe Coutinho won’t easy. M. United is 14th in the Premier League in clearances(636), 16th in interceptions(281), 18th in tackles(460), and 7th in goals conceded(40). M. United certainly has its work cut out for them.

Furthermore, Barcelona’s average ball possession is 59 percent in Champions League play. They’re first in this year’s Champions League in scoring attempts with 162, with 58 attempts on target. The likes of Ashley Young, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling are surely in for a rude awakening defending against Messi & company. Goalkeeper David De Gea will be under immense pressure because it’s up to him to deny Barcelona’s brutal attack.

On a positive note, M. United has conceded an average of 0.88 goals in Champions League play. However, they haven’t met a team quite like Barcelona granted that Barcelona has scored an average of 2.38 goals per game in Champions League play.

Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford combine for nearly 50 goals in Premier League and Champions League play. If they can find a way through Barcelona’s solid defense who’s conceded an average of 0.75 goals in Champions League play so far, M. United will gain an advantage. At any rate, they need to be healthy and ready.

In M. United’s case, they’ve averaged 1.25 goals with an average of 12 shot attempts per game. Their average ball possession is 48 percent. M. United must attack every second of the game. M. United’s offensive attack must maintain longer ball possession and keep the pressure off their defense otherwise Barcelona will take control of the match. Consequently, Barcelona rarely relinquishes control once they have it. If M. United is to assume control, they must do so immediately.

Both sides have a unique midfield capable of passing, dribbling and penetrating through each other. Barcelona will likely utilize a 4-3-3 formation with Suarez, Messi, and Coutinho leading the attack, giving Barcelona’s midfield a true advantage. As a result, M. United could possibly retaliate with a 4-4-2 formation to contain and slow down Barcelona’s attack threat and dissect their defense.

A duel between M. United striker Lukaku and Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué is sure to be a highlight of the encounter between the clubs. Piqué is known for his versatility, speed, and unique ability to slow down offensive attack threats. Lukaku has six goals in his last six appearances. In addition, his speed and ability are capable of penetrating through opposing defenses.

The first leg is April 10th at Old Trafford. M. United has an opportunity to gain the advantage. They can’t allow Barcelona to score goals and gain an advantage via the away goals rule. It’s most important that M. United is ready to challenge Messi & company.

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