Man Utd defender Varane ready for tough challenge against Barcelona
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Nine of Barcelona’s starting XI have reportedly been named by the Spanish press ahead of their Europa League showdown with Manchester United. The two teams will do battle tonight with a place in the last 16 of the competition at stake. And the tie is currently in the balance after an enthralling 2-2 draw last week.
According to AS, nine of Barcelona’s starting XI have already been decided as they look to dump United out of European football’s second-tier club competition.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is primed to start between the sticks, with the Germany international impressing in the 2-2 draw in Catalonia last week.
Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen are set to be deployed at the back, with the trio charged with the task of nullifying the threat of Marcus Rashford.
Sergio Busquets has just returned from injury but will return to the starting XI, having missed the last three games.
He’s supposedly set to play alongside Frenkie de Jong and Franck Kessie, with the former famously courted by United back in the summer.
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And, up top, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha are also mentioned as being ‘guaranteed’ starters.
Barcelona are, however, undecided over their final two positions in the team.
At left-back they could start Alejandro Balde over Jordi Alba or Marcos Alonso, with Xavi keen to spring a selection surprise for the showdown in Manchester.
And, in attack, Sergio Roberto, Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati are all options for the Spaniard to call on.
The contest at Old Trafford on Thursday night has the makings of a classic, especially given what unfolded seven days ago.
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Barcelona went ahead through Alonso, with the former Chelsea star heading home in the 50th minute.
However, a strike from Rashford and Kounde’s own goal then turned the tide and put the Red Devils in the ascendancy.
Barcelona, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel.
And Raphinha struck late on to earn his side a draw, with the former Leeds star’s curling strike sailing beyond the reach of David De Gea.
Speaking ahead of the second leg, Xavi admitted United were ‘one of the best teams in Europe’.
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“It will be a very difficult game, Manchester United are one of the best teams in Europe today and they’re showing it every game,” he said.
“Ten Hag is doing a great job. They are a team that show intensity, mentality, passion, rhythm… we will need to match them in every level, to show personality and be loyal to our style.
“Above all, we need the bring the mentality to compete in Europe.
“We can say that Manchester United have returned and they are playing their best football in many years.
“It is a good opportunity to show that Barca can also compete.”
United boss Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, wants his side to produce their best performance of the season.
“When you face such big teams as Barcelona you have to play your best, otherwise you don’t have a chance,” said the 53-year-old.
“We have the opportunity.
“But the first focus point is always the next game and we can’t win the (Europa League) trophy this week.
“We have to keep in the same mindset that every day we want to give a better version of ourselves.”
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