CL Preview – Barcelona still favourites to overcome Manchester United

Manchester United v Barcelona, Semifinal, 2007/2008 Champions League.

First Leg
Camp Nou, Barcelona – Wednesday 23 April 2008 – 19:45 GMT

Second Leg
Old Trafford, Manchester – Tuesday 29 April 2008 – 19:45 GMT


It’s tempting to paint this tie as the anti-thesis of the ‘shit on a stick’ syndrome some people are expecting to see at Anfield and Stamford Bridge in the next 9 days. It’s also tempting to point at *real* pedigree and history, although you should never mention history in front of Liverpool supporters.

The opportunity to go on and on about the abundance of attacking talent present at these two clubs is there, but a road not to be taken. There are only two possible outcomes at this point – and both involve superiority of tactics over attacking flair.

Either Barcelona will annihiliate United at Camp Nou and make a mockery of their recent troubles (or rather, United’s recent form in Europe), or a close tactical battle will go down to the wire and one moment of brilliance or a moment of ineptitude (by either side) will make the difference.

Barca View

If you believe the press, Barcelona are in a crisis the likes of which you’ve never seen. One of the best teams in the world (on playing talent alone) is suffering from a confidence crisis and a strange inability to dominate teams they are expected to thrash with ease. Critics have made Rijkaard and Ronaldinho easy scapegoats, but the truth is that when Barcelona suffers everyone suffers, from the manager to the players and the fans.

Barcelona’s season hinges on how they play against Manchester United – and luckily for them, they’ve done well in Europe despite being unconvincing at home. European contests need short, 90-minute bursts of motivation and energy twice a month (and then too there’s a good gap between matches) and Barcelona can do that much better then play on a high tempo week in and week out.

United View

Regardless of whether Messi plays or not (and he probably will), United have a tough task ahead of them (tougher than beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, tbh). It’s not that we can’t beat them or at least get an away goal – our record in that department has been excellent this season both in Europe and domestically against our main rivals – but it’s the sheer quality of the players in the opposition in front of us that will make the difference.

Some idiot on the BBC 606 forums said that if Nani or Giggs (whoever started) could track back they could help Evra neutralise Messi – if only it were that easy! A lot will depend on United’s central defence, especially the full backs and this is one game Evra can’t afford to make even a single mistake.

And as Tevez says, it’s better that Messi plays than that he doesn’t. If United lose, we’ll go out to the best team available. If United win, they’ll have no excuses.

Plus all this talk of Messi takes away the attention from Anderson, Carrick, Hargreaves, Rooney and Tevez, which suits United just fine.

Stats View

Semifinal    FC Barcelona – Manchester United
UEFA Champions League
25 Nov 1998
FC Barcelona – Manchester United
UEFA Champions League

16 Sep 1998
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
UEFA Champions League
02 Nov 1994
FC Barcelona – Manchester United
UEFA Champions League
19 Oct 1994
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
Cup Winners Cup
15 May 1991
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
Cup Winners Cup
21 Mar 1984
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
Cup Winners Cup
07 Mar 1984
FC Barcelona – Manchester United

* Match played in Rotterdam


Score draw in Barcelona, narrow 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Here’s hoping…

Picture story: Anderson epitomizes United in some respects (perhaps more than Ronaldo – not in importance but in the spirit and attitude of the club) just as Messi represents Barcelona, and he’s one of 3 reasons (Hargreaves and Tevez are the other two) that United can feel more confident than last season going into the semi-finals.

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