Barcelona plays against Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League playoff at Old Trafford in the second leg.
The Spanish side has been in red-hot form and is currently on a seven-game winning streak domestically since the new year. The English side too has turned the tables in their domestic season and has enjoyed a favourable season in the Premier League. They have recently found their feet and have climbed up the Premier League table.
After a thrilling first-leg tie at the Spotify Camp Nou, both teams find themselves with two goals each and still have everything to play for. The first leg was a game of end-to-end football, and it looked like a Champions League semi-final second-leg game in its dying stages throughout the 90 minutes of the first leg.
We now take a look at some of the stats that show what the first leg looked like and analyse how both teams were set up in the first leg.
Overall comparison of European performances
The viz above shows the percentile rank of both teams’ stats compared to each other as well as to other teams in the UEFA Champions League 2022–23 for Barcelona and the UEFA Europa League 2022–23 for Manchester United. It can be seen that both teams have neck-and-neck overall stats in most departments. Notably, the visitors have the upper hand in terms of shots and xG and are level in opposition entries per 90. Alternatively, there are a couple of departments where the hosts have slightly better stats, such as key passes and high press success.
Barcelona maintains 63.41% possession and attempts 611 passes on average with an accuracy of 88.8%. They make 79.5 recoveries per 90 minutes. Whereas, Manchester United keeps the ball for 63.35% of the match on average, attempting 615.67 passes with an accuracy of 88.7%. Additionally, the Red Devils make 86.17 recoveries per match.
Ten Hag’s tactics
Manchester United lined up in a 4-1-4-1 for their visit to Camp Nou. Wan-Bissaka played a major role down the right flank as the wide midfielder, as he linked up with the backline and midfield to provide a channel down the right flank. Manchester United completed 237 out of 30 passes in the game with 78.48% accuracy.
Rashford was positioned in the half-spaces between the centre-backs, and all the United players constantly looked to make a pass between the Barcelona backline and Ter Stegen.
Xavi set his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and the absence of club captain Sergio Busquets was clearly visible in the middle of the park. Xavi opted to play with two pivots in the middle in De Jong and Kessie, but they both lacked chemistry and were not able to bring control to the game. Instead, Pedri and Gavi were seen dropping down to receive the ball and build play with the forwards. The team made a total of 462 passes in the match having 83.33% pass accuracy. One of the major issues was the inability to use Lewandowski to the fullest as Barcelona were not able to find the player in the box through cutbacks or crosses.
Attacking zones in the first leg
The two viz above compare both teams on the basis of their wingers’ actions in the first leg of the tie. While both teams use the flanks significantly to move the ball forward, Barcelona delivers more forward passes and crosses into the box from the wide positions compared to Manchester United.
The hosts made 35 passes to the final third compared to 26 such passes by the visitors. Barcelona made eight successful crosses out of a total of 22 attempted, whereas Manchester United delivered five out of nine crosses attempted in the match.
The Blaugrana must be faithful in putting more crosses and passes into the box from wide areas as well as surprising the United defence with penetrations into the box through the likes of their wingers and fullbacks.
Marcus Rashford is in menacing form, and he proved why he is being referred to as one of the best attackers in Europe at the moment. The Englishman took five shots in the game and scored one goal from just outside the six-yard box. He finished the game with 0.56 xG and had three shots on target with 0.11 xG per shot. Xavi will have to be more aware of the amount of space available for Rashford in the final third, especially at Old Trafford.
Christian Eriksen, Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, Harry Maguire, and Antony continue their recovery for Manchester United and will not be available for Ten Hag’s selection.
Barcelona lost Gavi to a suspension, while Pedri sustained an injury in the first leg. Ousmane Dembele is also expected to miss out due to injury, but Sergio Busquets is most likely to be available for Xavi in the second leg.
Overall, with the first leg finely poised at 2-2, the battle at Old Trafford will determine which team is more deserving and has been able to rebuild their squad better as compared to the other over the last few years. Manchester United are in red-hot form given the presence of Marcus Rashford and seems to be the favourite to win. It will take a monumental effort from Barcelona, where the players are more composed and confident, in order to see themselves dominate the game like in the old days at Old Trafford.
Visuals via Wyscout and TFA data viz engine