The European clash against Manchester United dawns upon FC Barcelona. The UEFA Europa League play-offs tie will be a massive test for both sides as they continue their respective quests to prove themselves to be back amongst the elites of Europe following a progressive rebuilding phase.
Moreover, both sides also have their own respective injury and suspension issues, and this in turn will dictate how both Xavi Hernandez and Erik Ten Hag choose their lineups for the Thursday matchup.
This is how Xavi expected to line up his team against Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United in the first leg of the Uefa Europa League play-off round.
Barcelona vs Man United: Expected Line-up
Goalkeeper: Marc Andre Ter Stegen
With another clean sheet against Villarreal, Ter Stegen inches closer and closer to the Zamora trophy while simultaneously having one of the most impressive defensive records La Liga has ever witnessed. His form will be vital against Manchester United’s in-form front line.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde
The youngster possesses rapid legs and a recently improved game sense that has forged a dangerous fullback in his own awakening. Balde will be tasked with a lot of high work rate duties against United, but given his abilities as well as capabilities, the player is more than equipped to deal with them.
Centre-back: Andreas Christensen
Another major piece of Xavi’s defense, the Danish center-back can be relied upon just as all the other 3 in this 4 man unit. His passing range, aerial prowess, and calmness under pressure are all enviable traits that make him such a useful asset within this Barcelona setup.
Centre-back: Ronald Araujo
Arguably the main protagonist of Barcelona’s win over Villarreal. The Uruguayan has become the defensive pillar of this young Catalan squad and according to reports, has been tasked to deal with Marcus Rashford in this upcoming clash. However, given his quality, there will be few who doubt Araujo in being capable of accomplishing his prescribed objective.
Right-back: Jules Kounde
Jules Kounde is arguably FC Barcelona’s strongest option at the right-back position at the moment. This seems rather absurd when recognizing his preferred and best position is at center-back, thus bringing even further into light the quality of versatility that this defender possesses and just how fortunate FC Barcelona are to have his services.
CDM: Frenkie De Jong
The pure joy that the football of Frenkie De Jong exudes at its best is one of a kind. His darting, wavy runs and his smart, intricate passes combine to create a player upon whom Blaugrana fans all over can rely upon even when the opponent presses the Dutchman with complete integrity.
CDM: Franck Kessie
In the absence of Sergio Busquets, there remained uncertainty over how well Kessie can adapt to an already-established tactical setup. The result of the change ended up being nowhere as calamitous as most feared. The Ivorian has since stepped up and albeit in a varying manner, seems to have found his own unique spot in that midfield.
Having won FC Barcelona the most points across the season through his individual goals, the golden boy winner has added much more depth to his already prominent qualities. Now an outright goalscorer as well, Pedri continues to mesmerize and amaze.
While Gavi’s talent and tenacity will be called upon quite frequently against the Red Devils, the youngster may need to tread with care. One yellow away from being suspended for the second leg, the youngster will be forced to play a bit more cautiously than he typically does.
Centre-forward: Robert Lewandowski
While he may not have had quite the luck he would hope for in front of the goal in the last game, Robert Lewandowski proved his importance to this Barca team lies in more than just adding the final touch to a play. His chance creation, and adaptability to provide assists as well as hold-up play when needed all combine to make the Polish striker a force to be reckoned with.
His quick feet and instinctive movement were crucial in creating FC Barcelona’s only goal of the game against Villarreal that ended up giving the Blaugrana side the victory. With Ousmane Dembele still out injured, the Brazilian winger will have to be at his best to trouble Manchester United as much as possible.