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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 28 May, 2020


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So we’re all set for what should be a fascinating encounter. It’s the first time the sides have met in a competitive match, since the 2011 Champions League final, which Barcelona won 3-1.

United have never lost at home to Barcelona, however, with two wins and two draws as it stands.

The Red Devils don’t go into this game in the best of form. Since the PSG triumph, they have won one and lost three of their past four fixtures.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have won seven of their last eight La Liga matches, and look set to claim another title, as they are currently 11 points ahead of nearest rivals Atletico Madrid.

In the Champions League, Ernesto Valverde’s men have been similarly impressive, particularly at Wembley in the group stages, when they earned an impressive 4-2 win against Tottenham.

So who do you think will go through ultimately?

Poll Results:

Barcelona (508)
Man United (240)

We’re under way…

Busquets is penalised for a rash challenge on McTominay.

It’s the type of tackle that undoubtedly would have resulted in a booking later in the game.

United have a free kick 30 yards out that Rashford strikes powerfully, but it goes a few inches wide.

Barcelona have largely controlled the game and dominated possession so far.

United, meanwhile, have sat back and had one or two promising moments on the counter-attack.

After a long deliberation with VAR employed as the officials check for offside, the goal is given.

Messi runs through on goal and produces the perfect lofted cross for Suarez, whose header from a tight angle at the backpost deflects in off Luke Shaw.

It’s a brilliantly worked goal, but it was poor from United’s perspective, as Suarez was left completely unmarked in the area.

Shaw gets booked for cynically dragging back Messi as the Argentine international pushes the ball past him.

That means the England international will miss the second leg.

Rashford evades the challenge of a Barcelona defender before shooting over the bar from about 30 yards out.

The young striker is looking lively tonight.

Man United have been a bit better in recent minutes.

They’re pressing Barca higher and forcing them into mistakes in possession.

As I type, McTominay goes down under a challenge from Pique. There was definitely contact, but the midfielder appeared to make the most of it.

Meanwhile, Messi is receiving treatment after being caught by Chris Smalling’s flailing arm as the two players went for the ball.

Busquets plays a dodgy underhit backpass to Ter Stegen.

Lukaku tries to latch onto it, but his run is blocked by a Barcelona defender. The referee, however, ignores protests from the crowd and the United striker, waving play on.

Here’s a look at the opener, which has now been officially credited as a Luke Shaw own goal.

De Gea is forced to make a save with his feet to prevent Coutinho from firing home the second, after Suarez laid it off to his fellow former Liverpool star on the edge of the area.

There was some unconvincing defending in the build up by Lindelof, as he failed to deal with a long ball.

Big chance for United!

Rashford picks out Dalot at the far post with a lovely cross, but the 20-year-old Portugal-born player cannot direct his header on target from a tricky angle.

Since the goal, it’s been a decent performance from United.

They have not been afraid to press their opponents or get bodies forward, and have threatened on occasion.

Barca have had 295 passes compared with 122 for United according to the official stats.

There has been an increasing sense of purpose about the hosts’ play, however, whereas Barca are not as dominant as they were early on.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Old Trafford Manchester United's Scott McTominay (left) and Barcelona's Gerard Pique talk during the UEFA Champions League quarter final. Source: Nick Potts

So half-time, and it’s Barcelona with the advantage, thanks to that well-worked goal.

United, following a disappointing start, got better as the half wore on and showed some bravery in getting bodies forward and pressing Barca high.

Messi did very well for the goal, but United have managed to keep the Catalans’ maestro quiet for the most part and the Red Devils have defended well aside from that one critical moment where they conceded.

You get the sense that the next goal will be crucial. If the visitors get it, then they’ll have one foot at least in the semi-finals, whereas if United can equalise, it’s very much game on.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Old Trafford Barcelona's Sergio Busquets (right) holds back Manchester United's Paul Pogba. Source: Nick Potts

The second half has begun…

United are continuing to press high.

Lenglet has just put the ball out of play under pressure, following a dodgy kick out from Ter Stegen.

Lukaku plays Rashford through down the left wing, but Pique stops him with a well-timed challenge.

Moments later, Ter Stegen can only parry Young’s cross. It then falls to Rashford on the edge of the area, but the England striker can’t get a proper connection on his shot.

It’s been a very encouraging start to the second half for United, who are troubling Barca with their pace, pressing and relentless work-rate.

Messi tries to pick out Jordi Alba and uncharacteristically overhits a relatively simple pass.

That sums up Barcelona’s start to the second half — they look a little out of sorts.

United continue to pass the ball about confidently. They have all the momentum in this game now.

Barca appear to have switched to a 4-4-2 formation in response to United’s increasing threat.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Old Trafford Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (left) and Barcelona's Clement Lenglet battle for the ball. Source: Mike Egerton

After a long spell of Barca possession, Semedo plays through Suarez, who blasts a shot into the side-netting from a tight angle.

The visitors then make a double change, as Vidal is in on for Coutinho, and Arthur gets replaced by Sergi Roberto.

It’s United turn to make a change now, as Martial replaces Lukaku.

Just over 20 minutes remain.

Vidal has been James McClean-like in his over-the-top enthusiasm since coming off the bench.

And consequently, the Chilean midfielder has just picked up an inevitable booking for a late challenge on Fred, having taken down Pogba moments earlier.

Messi gets the ball in a promising position, but crosses straight into De Gea’s arms.

The Argentine international has been strangely ineffective in this second half, to the extent that you almost expect him to do something magical shortly to compensate for his subdued display.

Meanwhile, an attacking United change sees Lingard replace Dalot.

The late rally that might have been expected from United hasn’t come yet.

Barcelona have controlled the game well in the last few minutes.

Pogba commits a needless foul on the edge of the area on Semedo.

This is Messi territory.

Messi’s free kick deflects off the wall and goes safely into De Gea’s arms.

Down the other end, McTominay plays it to the onrushing Martial, whose heavy touch allows Pique to make a crucial last-ditch challenge.

Interesting final change from Solsjkaer.

Rashford is replaced by Andreas Pereira.

For all their moments of encouragement, United have still yet to register a shot on target in this game.

It looks like Barca are going to see this game out and put themselves in pole position ahead of the second leg at the Camp Nou.

There will be three minutes of stoppage time…

Barca make a final change.

Busquets, who is fortunate having made more than one yellow-card-worthy challenge, is replaced by Alena. 

So that’s that. It was a somewhat strange game. There were some positives for United. They kept Messi quiet and never looked overrun by Barca, while having a few promising spells in the game.

On the other hand, for the first time since March 2005 against AC Milan, United failed to register a single Champions League shot on target in 90 minutes, while the result leaves them with a mountain to climb ahead of the second leg at the Camp Nou.

Barca, meanwhile, controlled large portions of the game without regularly getting out of second gear. You would expect both Messi and the team in general to be better in the second leg.

Right, that’s all from me for now, but we’ll have further reaction on the site shortly.

Until next time, thanks for reading and commenting.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy


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