Raphael Varane is feeling confident ahead of Manchester United’s Europa League play-off tie against Barcelona this evening.
The two European heavyweights head into the second leg with two goals apiece. Erik ten Hag and Xavi have overseen sensational results and performances so far this campaign, and both will see this competition as an achievable prospect of silverware.
Varane returned to Spain again last week to face former rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The reception from the Catalan faithful was as toxic as you’d expect when the stadium announcer read out the Frenchman and Casemiro’s names, given their long and successful history with Real Madrid.
The 29-year-old lined up alongside Luke Shaw in the first leg, though it’s likely his usual partnership with Lisandro Martinez will resume this evening now that the Argentinian has served his one-match suspension. The pair have been pivotal to United’s outstanding form this season and are one of the strongest centre-back duos across Europe.
Varane is ready for Barca clash
Speaking to MUTV, the defender looked ahead to Thursday’s must-win blockbuster clash.
“I think the first game against Barcelona was a very good game, top level, two offensive teams who want to press high up the pitch. The level was good and it was a good result for us. Obviously, in the first half, we could score maybe more goals, but in general, we played with character and personality on the pitch, which is very important.
“In the second game, we know how we want to play, we want to play with patience and with discipline on the pitch and belief. I think we have a good team and we are ready for that challenge.
“I think over the last month we have grown a lot; we are playing with more confidence and tomorrow the atmosphere will be electric so we will have to manage our emotions by staying calm and believing. I think we have improved a lot already as a team and the next stage is to beat teams like Barcelona and it is both a great challenge and a great opportunity.
“Obviously they have important absences in the squad [on Pedri and Gavi]. But also Barcelona have a big squad and they can find replacements for this. We need to be prepared and they can bring players in who are ready to play in this game. We have to be prepared and we have to play the same [as the first leg] or even better to go through and qualify for the next round.”