- Barcelona are second favorites to win the UEFA Champions League
- This will be Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s first game in charge as permanent United manager
- United dare not lose the first leg
European ties don’t come much bigger than Manchester United vs Barcelona. When said match-up on Wednesday, April 10th is for a place in the UEFA Champions League semi-final then it becomes massive.
Added significance comes with it being the first European tie for United manager Ole Gunnar Solkjaer since he has been made the club’s permanent manager.
Manchester United vs FC Barcelona Odds
|Manchester United||+0.5 (-125)||+260||O 2.5 (-140)||+300|
|FC Barcelona||-0.5 (+105)||+105||U 2.5 (+115)||-475|
*Odds taken 04/02/19
As second favorites to win the competition, Barcelona will come into this tie confident of progressing and with Lionel Messi scoring for fun in La Liga they look well priced.
Messi, a five-times Ballon d'Or winner, has begun 2019 in fine form with his Barcelona side running away with La Liga and through to the Champions League quarter-finals. https://t.co/ijuoVL8eMl
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) March 30, 2019
History Repeating Itself
An added twist here is that Solkjaer scored the winning goal for United when they won the trophy in 1999 in a game that was played in Barcelona’s stadium, the Camp Nou. A super special twist would be if Solkjaer were to lead his team to the trophy 20 years after scoring that winner.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed he will play in the Man United vs Bayern Munich on May 26th to mark the 20 year anniversary of the 1999 Champions League final, alongside a host of other legends from the game,
Another injury time winner? pic.twitter.com/FvBWgQ3kLq
— Sport Social (@TheSportSocial) March 29, 2019
There’s an awful lot of work to be done though, and United must perform better in the first leg of this tie than they did in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie and against Paris Saint-Germain. A 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford, which was the first defeat of Solkjaer’s United tenure, gave the Red Devils a mountain to climb in the second leg in Paris.
United to Recreate the Spirit of Paris
It was, however, a challenge United rose to magnificently and a second-minute goal from Romelu Lukaku set the tone for what became a famous night in his club’s history.
Romelu Lukaku’s game by numbers vs. PSG:
5 defensive aerial duels won
3 successful take-ons
2 shots on target
“Only scores against small teams” ? pic.twitter.com/2ZCfW8c3zs
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 6, 2019
Despite PSG equalizing through Juan Velasco 10 minutes later, the scene was set for a titanic second-half when, on the half-hour mark, Lukaku scored a second. The second half ebbed and flowed but with no goals until four minutes into added time, United were controversially awarded a penalty.
Ice Cool Rashford
England striker Marcus Rashford held his nerve and his unerring penalty sent the travelling United fans into raptures and his team through to the last eight.
Hugely controversial. pic.twitter.com/pCxUp9Pjpr
— World Soccer Talk (@worldsoccertalk) March 6, 2019
So, while Barcelona start as favorites to win both the first leg at Old Trafford and to progress through to the semi-final, the fact United have already demonstrated such resilience in such testing circumstances gives them a chance. Also worthy of note is that the thrilling win in Paris was done without star player Paul Pogba.
The fact United have already demonstrated such resilience in such testing circumstances gives them a chance.
Fortunately for United, the Frenchman is healthy again and will be leading the charge against the Catalans.
Messi Leads the Barca Charge
Barcelona, in addition to the mercurial Messi, have a squad full of international quality and have the added incentive of their Spanish rivals Real Madrid having already been knocked out of this year’s competition. They will see this as a great opportunity to add to their five UEFA Champions League titles, the last time they won it being 2015.
Leo Messi on his goal against Getafe being voted as the best in @FCBarcelona's history: “I would not have selected the goal vs Getafe. I’d have gone with the goal vs Madrid in the SF of the @ChampionsLeague at the Bernabeu or the header vs @ManUtd. I’d pick them for the moments" pic.twitter.com/BAAAwm1B5K
— Leo Messi ? (@WeAreMessi) March 29, 2019
Old Trafford Expectation
So, while the romantic notion of Solkjaer leading United to victory over the Catalans may be attractive to some bettors, we can see it being a repeat of the PSG home tie. The weight of expectation at Old Trafford can sometimes become a burden and we can see this adding to the pressure.
A narrow win, probably by the odd goal, will be our call.
Pick: Barcelona 1-0