Manchester United drew Barcelona during last Friday’s Champions League quarterfinal draws, and it’s safe to say the Catalans are a huge threat to the Red Devils’ last chance of winning silverware this term.
A Lionel Messi-inspired Barca has been in fine form in recent weeks, demolishing Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu twice within the space of four days, putting Lyon to sword in a 5-1 shellacking last week and giving Real Betis a 4-1 drubbing over the weekend.
On the other hand, United have suffered a dip in form, losing back-to-back games for the first time under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and getting dumped out of the F.A Cup in the process.
Nevertheless, Spanish midfielder Juan Mata is optimistic of United’s chances in next month’s double-legged clash against Barcelona, and he is hoping Messi won’t be in inspired form against his side – as that gives the Red Devils a realistic chance of progressing to the semifinals.
“As Barça are one of the toughest opponents in world football, we will have to put all of that into practice. For the boss, returning to Camp Nou will be very special, as well as for everyone who was there on that special night in May 1999,” Mata told the club’s official website.
“This tie will ask us to put in a huge effort, but we are ready to give our best to try to go through.
“In La Liga, Barça beat Real Betis, thanks to another masterclass from Lionel Messi [the Argentinian scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 away victory for the leaders and received a standing ovation from the home supporters], and we will have to hope that he isn’t so inspired when we play against them.”
Messi isn’t showing signs of slowing down this season despite being 31 years of age, scoring 29 league goals and assisting 12 others in 26 appearances, while he has eight goals and three assists in six Champions League games.
The Argentine is in red-hot form again, and United will have to really hope he isn’t inspired against them.
The Red Devils themselves need to be at their perfect best and then hope things go their way in both legs, or it could be the end of the road for them.