Barcelona play host to Manchester United on Thursday in a meeting which has twice graced the Champions League final but the week it all takes place in a Europa League play-off.
While this may be a sign of how far both clubs have fallen, Xavi and Erik ten Hag will believe they have what it takes to bring their teams forward to be successful in the biggest tournaments. Barcelona and Manchester United are both going through a transition, however, it’s clear to see how much stronger the Premier League is in comparison to the Premier League.
That doesn’t change the fact Barcelona and Real Madrid will remain huge forces within the game, although the latter’s transfer strategy has been questioned over recent years. Xavi will hope to fix that along with knocking United out of the Europa League.
It would be a shock if they weren’t both back in the prestigious Champions League next season – but there’s no point going that far if you are unable to compete in the knockout phase, which Barcelona failed to do this season after finishing third in the group stages.
One job the Barca manager has is stopping in-form Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. The England international goes into the game after scoring 21 goals in all competitions this season, including 13 since the World Cup.
According to AS, Xavi has been thinking about ways to deal with Rashford and he is putting his faith into defender Ronald Araujo.
It wasn’t a long time ago that Araujo was linked with a move to Old Trafford, so it will be interesting to see how performs up close – against the most in-form forward in Europe right now.
The report adds that Xavi has previously used Araujo up against Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, to good effect, and now he believes he can do the same with Rashford.
That could mean Xavi plays Araujo away from his preferred role at central defence, should the Uruguayan be given the responsibility for stopping United’s main goalscoring threat.
Araujo has formed an impressive partnership with Andreas in central defence this season, while competing for places with new signing Jules Kounde.
Let us know in the comments section how you think the first leg will go on Thursday night at Camp Nou.