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CL Preview – Barcelona still favourites to overcome Manchester United

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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


Overview

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
3-3
UEFA Champions League

16 Sep 1998
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
3-3
UEFA Champions League
02 Nov 1994
FC Barcelona – Manchester United
4-0
UEFA Champions League
19 Oct 1994
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
2-2
Cup Winners Cup
15 May 1991
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
2-1*
Cup Winners Cup
21 Mar 1984
Manchester United – FC Barcelona
3-0
Cup Winners Cup
07 Mar 1984
FC Barcelona – Manchester United
2-0

* Match played in Rotterdam

Predictions

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.

Comments (36)

  1. Given that Liverpool has more Champions Cup titles (both in its current form and the earlier incarnation as the European Cup) than both Barça and Man U together, the comment about pedigree and history rings a little hollow.

    Form suggests that Manchester United will win the tie and face another English side in the final. But the CL is all that Barcelona is focused on at this point, while Man U still doesn’t have the Premiership sown up.

  2. hence this line:

    although you should never mention history in front of Liverpool supporters

    :)

  3. man utd and barca both have the same champions league stats
    both havent lost at home both have scored 18 goals and only conceded 5 goals. this will be a phenomenal match to see. all props on the winner, im surely not picking with messi’s confident message that says i will knock man utd out the champions league, tough words let see if he can make them true or can rooney and ronaldo show other wise

  4. p.s. nani all pimped out keep it pimpin

  5. P.s Danget that’s anderson, but still REPRESENT!!!

  6. I think we’ll lose. However, I also think Barca are overconfident considering their recent form and their difficulties in overcoming Shalke 04. It’s not beyond us to go there and get a draw, and it’s certainly not beyond us to score there. Rijkaard never varies the formation so we can be sure Fergie’s been watching and making plans to contain them; and I think Hargreaves’ free role against Roma was a decoy, and he’ll be deployed in a holding role against Barca. Him, Carrick and Anderson in midfield should have the energy and ability to close down their play without us overcommiting our fullbacks, as this would just lead to their fullbacks coming in on the overlap. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and I expect we’ll put out a formation similar to the one we played at the Olympico, but with Ronaldo wide instead of central, and Tevez in the middle.

    Here’s hoping…

  7. Ahmed,

    Yeah, I did see the line – but I’m not a Liverpool supporter and I found the idea of mentioning “real” pedigree and history regarding Barça and ManU and excluding Liverpool is just not on ;)

    Regarding whether the tie with Chelsea is likely to yield two quality games or not… well, I’m not sure how much I agree with the ‘shit on a stick’ that Valdano came out with (last year?), but Benítez at least seems to know how to get his players sorted out for Cup competitions (the league is thus far beyod him)

  8. Come on! Easy 3-1 at Nou Camp and 2-0 at Old Trafford. No i’m not intoxicated. I just know. It would be nice if Andy scored. Then did some sort of Ronaldinhoesque samba. Then he gets subbed off later and the Nou Camp gets up to applaud the New Ronaldinho. Classic

  9. 3-0 tomorrow. Messy fainting from shock,

  10. Yeah, I did see the line – but I’m not a Liverpool supporter and I found the idea of mentioning “real” pedigree and history regarding Barça and ManU and excluding Liverpool is just not on.

    Gonzalo – can’t help but notice you didn’t see fit to mention either AC Milan or Real Madrid both of whom have won more than Liverpool……

  11. M – as a Real Madrid supporter, I thought it woud be crass to mention my side’s historical achievements at this point (given that we’re no longer in the competition), but I did think that it looked like Liverpool’s history was being lightly dismissed ;) (Ahmed – don’t take this too seriously – it’s all meant quite lightly – hard to get it across in text)

    Anyway, if you’re keen, you can check out my RM blog by following the link on my name

  12. Gonzalo – don’t think anyone’s history was being dismissed a club can have a great history and pedigree without necessarily being the most prominent team in the champions league. Although you may hate to admit it Barca do have a great tradition and history even though Real are the team who everyone admires in terms of european achievement.Even if you took away Real’s 9 european titles they would still have a great history and pedigree..

  13. I think perhaps I didn’t make myself very clear. My original remark was a bit of a throwaway comment about the ManU-Barcelona tie being seen as the antithesis of the Liverpool-Chelsea tie from a pedigree/history perspective. It wasn’t intended to be taken too seriously.

    Still, as a (relatively) neutral observer, I’m looking forward to the game.

  14. i like both teams FC Barcelona and Manchester United alot but i like man u more.

    go man u

  15. UNITED plzzzzzzzz………. no more..MAN’U'zz…

  16. this was the same noise being made about man utd in 2000, man u flying high in the premiership, madrid struggling in la liga. yet madrid sent over half of old trafford home by the 60th minute. man u have never been good against ball jugglers, which is what barca have in store for them. sorry to say that wes brown, ferdinand & vidic cannot cope with the tricky feet of messi, eto & bohan. a man u win at the nou camp would be a fluke.

  17. Barcelona they have good players and also the same thing Man united have. So we have to thing about this game in my own predition Barcelona will win in nou camp by 1-0.

    But in old trafford man united will draw 2-2 because the catalan they have the good side if you can see. But anyway is a game but lets see and watch the game

  18. Barcelona have a good record againts man united in champion league on 25-nov-1998 fc barcelona draw 3-3 with manchester, on 16-sept- manchester 3-3,in 1998.

    Now 2-nov-1998 barcelona 4-0 and also on the 19-oct-1994 manchester draw with barcelona 2-2. Until today the two sides have the best team but now is different if messi,and samuel play the real game we will have something, and man united c.ronaldo need to be look and w.rooney so wonderfull game

  19. This is going to be a tough test for Barca, but they can win. I’m going for 2-1.

    It’s going to be an edgy game with lots of tension. Ronaldo is probably the key for Man U, although he won’t find Barca making it easy for him.

    The city is buzzing. Let’s hope it’s a great game.

  20. I know it will be tough but not from the barca side if we have messi,eto,o. And man united also need c. ronaldo, w. rooney so that you may have something, well barca side need to take very carefull because it will not easy for the both teams

  21. I think a narrow Barcelona win today. It should be a tight game. More of a chess match with Barca just edging it. My prediction. Barcelona 1-0 Manchester United. That should set up the 2nd leg nicely and i’m confident we can overcome them.

  22. Anderson epitomizes Man U in some respects.

    For example: bling bling. (??)

  23. I pray my club Man Utd shld win 2day,bc Barcelonia always giv us headache.I predict at nou camp,Man.Utd wil win by 2-1 & in trafford Man Utd wil win by 3-1

  24. Team news: EVDS, Evra, Brown, Rio, Hargreaves, Park, Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney

    Positive lineup. I guess Hargreaves will be used to shackle Messi. But I anticipate Messi to then cut inside which will pose problems as our central midfield is defensively flimsy so we will have to hope that Brown and Rio are on form.

    Tevez and Rooney will give Barcelona hell and Ronaldo will bomb down the wing and Park will wear them out with his running. Carrick and Scholes will make things tick in midfield.

    My only worry is that we will lose the midfield battle

  25. this website listed the barca-manu game as
    “Camp Nou, Barcelona – Wednesday 23 April 2008 – 19:45 GMT”

    this is wrong!!!!! not 19:45 GMT, it is 20:45 GMT!!

    I am currently abroad I missed the first hour because of the dumb plonker who published this time! thanks pal!

  26. Hey Ahmed, just thinking, you should write an article about the general quality of football punditry. I’ve been watching RTE and it’s simply miles ahead of any football channel I’ve ever watched.They actually have long informed and intelligent discussions about football. Puts Sky and the BBC and ITV completely to shame. I think we did well in Barcelona tonight I thought. Fergie maybe should have played 4-5-1, but training in an attacking 442 then sending us out to defend threw them off. A 0-0 at the Nou Camp is a good result, although if Ronaldo had scored I think we could have run away with it. But if they can’t dominate us and put it away or even make two decent chances, there’s no way they can beat us at home. It’s possible, but really unlikely.

  27. balls with you for not giving proper information on the latest scores

  28. Im a bit suprised United didnt win to be honest.

  29. well done barcelona you have done it again history reapet itself i was predict that barcelona will win 1-0 but my predition was away the match draw. Eto,o L messi, yaya touray and deco they have played very well i can say all the barcelona side did well.

    But looked at what sir alex did about c.ronaldo and w.rooney it seems that sir alex was not with his mind. But we the catalan side know what we did, so let them wait until we come to old trafford they will know. I will give you my predition again in side O.T barcelona will win by 2-1
    lets watch and see till next week R10

  30. Actually that’s 19:45 GMT, 20:45 CET.

    And even I had made a mistake, since I’d mentioned it as one hour earlier, you would have started watching an hour early as opposed to an hour late.

    Or does that not make sense to you?

    sebastian – i humbly accept your criticism.

    michael – in the works, maybe i’ll put it up on footballmedia.com

  31. this looks to me like a repeat of the man u-real madrid tie of 2000. man u flying high in the premiership, madrid struggling for last CL ticket. scoreless draw at bernabeu, 3-2 to madrid at old traford. the 1st leg clearly showed that in terms of possession and midfield control, barca are far superior. man u tired out chasing shadows. their fatigue showed even in the match against chelsea, while barca rested key players against deportivo. man u will get confused at old traford as to whether to attack or defend. if they try to attack, they will leave holes at the back and barca are so good that they’ll carve them open, and they can’t defend at home like they did at the nou camp. it remains to be seen whether man u can survive this tie. it’ barca’s to lose.

  32. barca will win man-united with 1-0 man-u be carefull with deco the most dengerous player of the year.

  33. Yeah we are here again to show the world that we know what we can do today we will proved the world that BARCELONA is the king of the CUP. Just see and wait todays game barcelona side is very good so manchester you have to be carefull because i know. Just look at c. ronaldo lost his penalty kick in the 3mins,that will show you that they dont have the courage to face us.

    If the game start at old or new trafford watch the catalans side history will repeat itself. I pray that BARCELONA beat manchester in todays match so have a nice day and we watch the match peacefully bye bye….

  34. Manchester United is the best team in the world and i am very very proud to be a Man U Fan and no matter what happens i would always be a Man U Fan till i go 6 feets below the Ground…..Please Loosers if you cant beat Us then join the winner team…laughing out really Loud.

  35. I am a Manchester United Fan and would always be till i am 6feets below the Ground and please for loosers, if you cant beat US then join the leads…..

  36. Ahmed Bilal: We are in BST (British Summer Time) not GMT! So if you say 19:45 GMT, that is 20:45 BST and 21:45 CET! Thus, I was 1 hour late for the game!