Barcelona Can Still Draw The Positives From Old Trafford Win

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room firstly; Barcelona were below par for some of their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester United.

It wasn’t even that the Red Devils were particularly good though, moreover that the Catalans, unusually, were sloppy in possession and gave the ball away probably more times than they have all season.

And yet, there’s still so many positives to draw from the game in which they have a slender 1-0 advantage.

For a start, United worked hard and huffed and puffed all night, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen had nothing of note to do.

Any shots that came close were either saved or off target, and as long as Barca’s centre-backs are alive to the possibilities in the home leg, it’s unlikely that the German custodian will have much to do there either.

Secondly, the Catalans will look to turn on the style in front of their own supporters, and with 99,000 blaugranes behind them, it’s a whole different pressure that United will have to contend with.

TOPSHOT - Fans cheer before the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 20, 2018. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ernesto Valverde will ensure that his team aren’t as arrogant as perhaps Paris Saint-Germain were after their win over Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side, and the brief will be simple. To carry on playing as they did for the most part in Manchester.

It would be a surprise if Ousmane Dembele didn’t play some part in the second leg, and looking at how static United often were, there’s little doubt that they’ll not be able to contain his pace for an entire 90 minutes.

Without first choice Luke Shaw in situ at the Camp Nou, suspended after his yellow card, it’s probable that the Frenchman will be stationed on the right side.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona in action during the Copa del Semi Final match second leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Bernabeu on February 27, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto caused enough problems there on Wednesday night, and Dembele will take things up a notch.

With two thirds of the possession away from home, Barca should’ve eased to a more comfortable victory. That they didn’t has more to do with poor finishing rather than any tactical master class from Solksjaer.

If he were to employ a similar set up on the wider Camp Nou pitch, the hosts will take advantage of the spaces that will open up, particularly later in the game.

At 1-0, United do still have a chance of course, but they’ll have to be at their very best and Barca at their worst for a Champions League shock to occur.

*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article

Jason Pettigrove

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Journalist, broadcaster, author

Jason Pettigrove is a highly experienced and UEFA accredited journalist, broadcaster and published author specialising in expert analysis and insightful opinion on elite level football.

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