Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of the Champions League quarter-final second leg between Barcelona and Man United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer returns to the scene of his greatest triumph on Tuesday night, aiming for a repeat of the 1999 Champions League final when Manchester United take on Barcelona at Camp Nou in a blockbuster quarter-final second leg.
United’s recently-appointed manager scored a memorable late goal against Bayern Munich to win the second of three European Cups for United, and his side require a result of similar magnitude two decades on as they trail Barca 1-0 from the opening 90 minutes.
Barcelona did not really get out of first gear in last Wednesday’s first leg at Old Trafford, but nor did they have to. Marc-Andre ter Stegen did not have a single save to make all evening, meaning Luke Shaw‘s early own goal settled the match on the night.
For a game given plenty of hype pre-match, it did not exactly live up to its billing. However, the slender nature of the scoreline after 90 minutes ensures that it is still all to play for in Catalonia on Tuesday.
Barca have progressed from 39 of their 41 European ties in which they won the first leg away from home – the exceptions being against FC Koln in the 1980-81 UEFA Cup and against Metz in the 1984-85 Cup Winners’ Cup – so history suggests that they should get the job done.
Furthermore, the Spanish giants are unbeaten in 30 Champions League home games – the longest such run in the competition (W27 D3) – and they have also not conceded more than once in any of those matches since a 3-0 loss to Bayern in the 2012-13 semi-finals.
Shaw’s own goal, coming after Luis Suarez nodded a Lionel Messi cross into the six-yard box, really does give Barcelona a massive advantage ahead of the second leg, then, and Ernesto Valverde also had the advantage of being able to rotate his side between the two games.
Valverde opted to leave out Lionel Messi and several other first-team regulars for Saturday’s league clash with Huesca – a decision that the manager was forced to defend at full time as his side were held to a disappointing goalless draw against the division’s bottom side.
Barca have now drawn two away league games in a row, sandwiched by a late 2-0 win over closest challengers Atletico Madrid, though their lead at the summit is still a healthy nine points on the chasing pack.
Bar a late collapse in their remaining six matches, the La Liga title will be heading to Camp Nou for a fourth time in five years.
With a Copa del Rey final clash against Valencia also on the horizon, Valverde’s men remain on course for another famous treble, having previously pulled off that achievement in 2009 and 2015.
The Spanish champions have been a lot stronger domestically than on the continent in recent years, though, exiting the Champions League at this stage for three years running.
If they are to prevent that streak from extending to a fourth year, they will need to produce an improved display from the first leg to ensure that there will not be another magical Camp Nou night for their opponents.
Recent form in Champions League: DWDDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWD
Man United may have it all to do in the second leg, but their task is not as difficult as it was six weeks ago when travelling to the Parc des Princes requiring something close to a miracle.
Fielding a weakened starting lineup due to a string of injuries and suspensions, Solskjaer’s men were given no hope as they trailed Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 from the first leg on home soil.
A little under two hours later the Red Devils were celebrating another famous away European triumph, coming away from the French capital with a 3-1 victory to progress through on away goals.
In fact, their best performances in UEFA’s premier club competition have been reserved for their travels, scoring 90% of their goals this season away from (9/10).
Some realism is required, though. That win against PSG was the only time in four attempts United have made it through a knockout tie in this competition after losing the first leg at home. The Red Devils have also won just one of their last five away knockout stage games in the competition.
For a side of United’s calibre, magical European moments have been surprisingly few and far between – their win at this ground in 1999 being the standout one. With the pressure off, though, as it was at the Parc des Princes, Solskjaer’s current crop have the opportunity to write their own history.
If that is to happen then they need to improve drastically in terms of their recent performances. After a superb run of form from mid-December to the start of March that saw Solskjaer handed the job on a permanent basis, United have lost four of their last six matches.
They do at least head into the match on the back of a scrappy 2-1 victory over West Ham United at the weekend, leaving them in the mix for a top-four finish in the Premier League. Solskjaer will happily accept another victory of that nature on Tuesday as he returns to the place that provided him with his happiest footballing memory.
Recent form in Champions League: WWLLWL
Recent form (all competitions): LLWLLW
Solskjaer made five changes to his side against West Ham on Saturday, with kickoff coming just 72 hours before their trip to Catalonia, and he all but confirmed after the match that Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford will return on Tuesday night.
After failing to register a single shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since 2005 in the first leg, the visitors may alter their system slightly, potentially opening the door for Anthony Martial to return up top.
Messi suffered a facial injury against United but has been given the all clear to continue playing, while Rakitic has been struggling with illness but should be OK by Tuesday.
Despite having a mixed time of things since making the switch to Camp Nou 15 months ago, Philippe Coutinho has been tipped to retain his place in the forward line as Ousmane Dembele is lacking match fitness.
Suarez should also start, though he has had more shots without finding the net than any other player in the Champions League this season (33).
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Coutinho
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Dalot; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial
Head To Head
Barcelona have never lost a home match against Man United in European competition, with their last such meeting finishing 0-0 in April 2008.
There is little between the sides overall, with United recording three victories to Barcelona’s five in their 12 previous competitive meetings, though the hosts have won the last three fixtures – including wins in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals.
Of the 70 previous occasions a side has won a Champions League knockout tie first leg away from home, just four have been eliminated (6%). However, two of those instances have been in this season’s competition, including once by Man United.
We say: Barcelona 1-0 Manchester United
Barcelona failed to score for the first time in 11 matches last time out but, perhaps more importantly, they kept out the opposition for the ninth time in their last 14 matches. Man United need to score if they are to progress, which should set up a more entertaining match compared to last week’s first leg. We are backing Barca to end their recent quarter-final hoodoo with a repeat scoreline from the opening 90 minutes.