Barcelona to gain slender advantage in a thriller

In a matchup that would've been worthy of the competition's final, the draw for the last 16 of the 2022/2023 UEFA Europa League has pitted giants Barcelona and Manchester United against each other, with the first leg taking place early on Thursday evening at the Camp Nou. Both sides are in pretty good form, so the potential is there for an excellent contest. Read our preview here:

Dozen matter

Xavi's troops are on an 11-game winning streak coming into this fixture, though that record will be sorely tested by the visitors. With only Ousmane Dembélé and Sergio Busquets out of contention, the former playing legend otherwise has a full roster from which to come up with a strategy to make it a 12th on the spin, even if he'd have liked to have still been in the Champions League instead. Playmaker Gavi could be pushed further wide and forward to provide the ammunition for the ever-lethal Robert Lewandowski, with long-time Red Devils target Frenkie de Jong patrolling the midfield alongside Franck Kessié and the metronomic Pedri. Young left-back and full Spain international Alejandro Balde has proven adept at getting down the wing and putting in accurate balls for Lewandowski to nod goalwards.

Mag it and tag it

Erik ten Hag's men faced Leeds United twice in the Premier League last week; in the first game, they were perhaps fortunate to come away with a draw having been two goals down, but their rivals were no match for them at Elland Road in the second, with Marcus Rashford still going from strength to strength. The head coach will be without suspended pair Marcel Sabitzer and Lisandro Martínez, with arguably the latter's absence hitting their prospects of taking a result back home with them from Catalonia much trickier. Harry Maguire will come in from the cold replace the Argentinian stopper, and his immediate, immense challenge will be to best Lewandowski in the air. Rashford's runs will be difficult for Jules Koundé to track, and allowing too much attention to be devoted to him could free up Bruno Fernandes to pick his spot more centrally.

Betting tip

Casumo have odds of 4.75 for Barcelona to come out on top after deadlock at half-time, though it promises to be an exciting first leg regardless.

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