Manchester United vs Barcelona: Three players to look out for

The Hard Tackle looks at three key players to watch out for in the much-awaited game between Manchester United and Barcelona on Thursday.

Manchester United and Barcelona will meet in another potentially mouthwatering clash this week. The two clubs come together for another heavyweight outing a mere week after the first leg of their play-off tie last Thursday.

That match was a barn burner that ended in a riveting 2-2 draw. Barcelona took the lead early in the second half before Manchester United went ahead with two quickfire goals. But the two teams shared the spoils when Robert Lewandowski levelled things up in the 78th minute.

The latest meeting is set up nicely, with both teams displaying some excellent form in domestic football. While the visitors are running away with the title in La Liga, Manchester United might be the dark horse in the Premier League. The Red Devils also have the Carabao Cup to look forward to this weekend.

With Barcelona and Manchester United looking in good touch, the build-up to Thursday’s clash is exciting. Picking a favourite after last week’s encounter is next to impossible, and each side can progress to the Round of 16. And ahead of the blockbuster clash at Old Trafford, The Hard Tackle lists three key players for the game.

Franck Kessie

Kessie can turn around his fortunes with a colossal showing against Manchester United. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Sergio Busquets will be fit in time for the second leg against Manchester United on Thursday. But we have picked another midfielder, without whom the Barcelona captain might struggle to make his mark this week. The player in question is Franck Kessie.

The Ivory Coast international has struggled to make his mark since joining Barcelona. After being a talismanic figure for AC Milan, the Blaugrana seemed to have struck a coup by landing him in a Bosman move. But Kessie has not stamped his authority at Spotify Camp Nou.

Recent reports have even linked the 26-year-old with a move away from Barcelona. But with Pedri and Gavi unavailable to take on Manchester United, Kessie becomes a pivotal figure for the visitors. That is because he has the legs to help Barcelona win the midfield battle.

Sergio Busquets tends to struggle in a midfield trifecta these days and needs an additional man to help out defensively. But that is not possible in the absence of Pedri and Gavi. Fortunately for Xavi, Kessie has the engine to add to Busquets’s defensive cover and keep Bruno Fernandes quiet. And how the former AC Milan talisman fares will determine if Barcelona can beat Manchester United.

Marcus Rashford


9Who else but the most in-form player in the world right now? The spotlight in Thursday’s match will invariably be on Marcus Rashford, who has taken the game by storm since returning from the post-World Cup break.

Rashford has been nigh on unstoppable in the last two months, scoring 16 goals across all competitions to become the most prolific player in the top-five European leagues since the World Cup ended. And in such form, he is the odds-on favourite to get his name on the scoresheet on Thursday.

Erik ten Hag handing the 25-year-old a free role in a fluid attack has helped bring the best out of him. And his killer movement with and without the ball makes him a fearsome attacker. So one cannot bet against Rashford continuing his brilliant run and changing another game with his display.

Expect the English international to rise to the occasion again to take Manchester United to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. If that happens, the Red Devils will head into the Carabao Cup with all the momentum in the world.

Jules Kounde

Robert Lewandowski is on the other side of the goalscoring battle in the game. But while the prolific Polish striker will invariably again be a pivotal figure for the Blaugrana, we have gone with Jules Kounde.

The Frenchman has been starting as the first-choice right-back for Barcelona this season due to his defensive output. Kounde is one of the best readers of the game in the world, making him an intelligent full-back. But Marcus Rashford found a way to bypass the former Sevilla defender last week.

Xavi will thus need the 24-year-old to rediscover his best to neutralise the Manchester United attacker. If not, the hosts can potentially run riot, condemning Barcelona to a second European ouster in four months.

Kounde thus faces one of the toughest tests of his short Barcelona stint thus far. And along with Ronald Araujo, he will have a colossal task to halt the unstoppable force that is Marcus Rashford. With that in mind, the battle between Kounde and Rashford will be one to look forward to on Thursday.

Leave Comment


Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.