Man Utd tide turns with pivotal Barcelona player among three Xavi regulars to miss Europa League return

Manchester United have received a boost ahead of the second leg of their Europa League tie with Barcelona due to at least three absences among the opposition squad.

Man Utd faced off with Barcelona at Camp Nou on Thursday evening in the first leg of their Europa League knockout play-off round matchup. It finished as 2-2 draw after a goal from Marcus Rashford and an own goal by Jules Kounde came in between strikes from Marcos Alonso and Raphinha.

Since the away goals rule no longer applies in UEFA competitions, Man Utd still have plenty of work to do when the two sides reconvene at Old Trafford on February 23.

However, reports in Spain are confirming how Barcelona will have to travel to England with a depleted squad.

After Pedri picked up an injury in the first half at Camp Nou, Mundo Deportivo has relayed that the midfielder will be out for three to four weeks. Therefore, he will not be able to feature against Man Utd again next week.

Other than Pedri, Barcelona are also going to be without Ousmane Dembele due to his own injury. In addition, Gavi is going to be out due to suspension after receiving a yellow card to add to one he picked up in the Champions League group stage.

Pedri has played 30 times for Xavi’s side this season, while Dembele and Gavi have amassed 28 and 32 appearances respectively. Therefore, Barcelona will have to quickly get used to playing without them.

There are also doubts about whether Sergio Busquets – the club captain who has featured 27 times this term – will recover in time for the second leg after missing the first due to an ankle sprain.

Man Utd encouraged by team news before Barcelona return fixture

And while Barcelona are losing players, Man Utd are getting some back. For example, Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer will be back in contention next week after serving suspensions.

Therefore, the tide may be turning in Man Utd’s favour, although no game against a side of Barcelona’s calibre will be easy.

Barcelona enjoyed more possession in the first leg and also recorded more shots on target. Hence, the La Liga leaders will remain a difficult obstacle for Man Utd to overcome.

But without Pedri, Gavi and Busquets, their midfield could be a little light. Still, Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag knows all about how Frenkie de Jong can contribute in that territory, so he will still be someone the Red Devils have to stop.

Barcelona’s other options would be Franck Kessie and Sergi Roberto, and possibly youngster Pablo Torre. In the first leg, Kessie started alongside De Jong and Pedri, who was replaced by Roberto when he had to go off just before the break.

In Dembele’s absence, Raphinha and Gavi started in wider roles. Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres both came on as substitutes to reshuffle things, for Kessie and Raphinha respectively.

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Author: editor

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