Thursday, January 27, 2022

UEFA Champions League: It’s Crunch Time Baby!


The business end is upon us as only 8 teams remain in the continental extravganza in which we are sure to get new European Champions come 1st of June

Throw away your smartphones, switch off your laptops, get all your work done quickly and make sure you’re free come the midweeks of April 10 and 11 and April 17 and 18, for the Champions League quarterfinals, are here and we have been treated to a delicious round of fixtures. There are the upstarts, the fallen giants, the favourites looking to march on and the dark horses all in there somewhere, looking to continue their journey towards the promised land come June 1st in Madrid.

As we football folks love nothing more to analyse and share our so-called ‘expert’ opinions, we at 12th Man have decided to do the same, so here’s a look at how the teams match up and which ones we think will advance to the semifinals…

Manchester United v Barcelona

The tie of the quarterfinals, with two superclubs with some of the best pedigree in club football and the history to match that, Barca and United are no strangers to each on the grandest stages.

Head to head record:

Played: 11; United wins: 3; Barca wins: 4; Draws: 4; Aggregate score: United 15-20 Barca

Biggest United win: 3-0, European Cup Winners Cup, March 21, 1984

Biggest Barca win: 4-0, Champions League, Nou Camp, November 2, 1994

Most recent meeting: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United, Champions League final, 2011

Manager head-to-head

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ernesto Valverde have never before faced each other. Solskjaer has never managed against Barca; Valverde has never managed against United.

What gives Barcelona the edge

In most cases, the name of Leo Messi is enough to win half the game for the Catalans, such has been his form and reputation over the past decade and half! Valverde’s boys are also much more settled and has the recent winning pedigree that is required for all teams once the business end of any tournament begins.

Lastly, their recent record against the Red Devils has been fabulous, so that should give them a psychological head start come the first leg at Old Trafford.

What gives United the edge

Momentum is a weird entity in sport, and that is something that Solksjaer & Co have been riding since the Norwegian took over in December, and could continue to do so against their Spanish opposition as well.

The English giants have also broken a streak of record during the club legend’s temporary tenure, not least their Houdini act against PSG in the pre-quarters, and that should give them added confidence and pride that they can take on all comers, including the threat of Messi & Co.

Our verdict

Lightning does not strike twice, and that is something United fans have themselves acknowledged since the draw was made on Friday. Barca, on current form and paper at least, just seem to be a cut above this young United side, so they should end Solksjaer’s dream run in Europe, though the Red Devils will not make it one bit easy!


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