The last time Barcelona lost a Champions League tie to an English club was when Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea pulled off an unexpected win over the Catalan giants in 2012. A defensive master-class was in store for Pep Guardiola’s men as they failed to overcome a 1-0 away defeat from the first leg. The Spanish giants could only manage a 2-2 draw in response to a solid performance by the London-based club.
Now, Ernesto Valverde’s men are tasked to defend a 1-0 away win against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United.
The onlookers expect Lionel Messi and team to breeze past a struggling United. Naturally, this expectation is accompanied by immense pressure.
However, Barcelona have shown in the past few years that they are vulnerable to a high press and a well-structured defence.
In all likelihood, the Red Devils will have to weather a storm at the Camp Nou. But it would be wise for Solskjaer’s men to take a leaf out of Di Matteo’s book and strangle Barcelona through a defensive master-class.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half at Old Trafford, United showed that they are capable of pressing Barcelona and forcing mistakes.
In fact, United would probably have taken home a 3-1 lead, had Marcus Rashford capitalised on Barcelona’s mistakes. If United pick up from where they left off at the hour mark at Old Trafford and form an impenetrable back-line, they could pull-off an unlikely upset at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona should be careful and ensure that there are no twists in the tale as they look to book a slot in the semis for the first time in four years.
Inability to break the press and unlock the opposition defence was the main reason why Barcelona were unable to get past Chelsea in 2012. This Barcelona side is also vulnerable to counters, much like the side that was eliminated by Chelsea. Valverde must establish a sense of stability to prevent a Déjà vu.
United have to emulate this kind of effort in attack and in defence in order to complete yet another historic come-back. But Barcelona could be well-equipped to deal with a surprise this time.