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The odds for Manchester United vs Barcelona have been taken from the FanDuel sportsbook, which is running a special offer whereby new punters can receive a $1000 no-sweat first bet.
Back both teams to score and over 2.5 goals when Manchester United take on Barcelona for the second leg of this Europa League play-off. The first match was a thriller and the return fixture should follow suit.
The first leg of this Europa League knockout round play-off was viewed as a test of Manchester United’s credentials. Erik ten Hag’s side had been in excellent form domestically, but they had lost their last big away game when they went down 3-2 to Arsenal. A visit to the Camp Nou would reveal how much progress United had really made.
They passed the test with flying colors. A 2-2 draw means the tie is in the balance ahead of Thursday’s return fixture, but United’s all-round performance was extremely encouraging. Against one of the best teams in Europe, the Red Devils produced a fearless display and were arguably a little unfortunate to have not got the win.
Barcelona took the lead in the 50th minute through Marcos Alonso, but Marcus Rashford equalized almost immediately. The visitors to Catalonia then went ahead courtesy of a Jules Kounde own goal, before a Raphinha strike got the hosts back on level terms.
Ten Hag’s approach was astute. He reasoned that United were always unlikely to dominate possession at the Camp Nou, so they instead focused on doing damage in transition. Despite the fact Barcelona had the lion’s share of the ball, the shot count was level at 18 each. The better chances probably belonged to United; indeed, the expected goals finished in their favor.
Ten Hag’s team continued their fine run of form with a 3-0 triumph over Leicester City on Sunday, a result which keeps United in the Premier League title race.
Barcelona are on course to win the La Liga title. A 2-0 defeat of Cadiz on Sunday restored their eight-point lead over Real Madrid at the summit of the standings. Lifting that trophy would probably make up for their early exit from the Champions League, especially if the Blaugrana were to triumph in Europe’s secondary competition.
As things stand, bowing out from the Champions League before Christmas is still a major source of disappointment, in large part because the same state befell Barcelona last term.
But it is hard to argue with their domestic record this season. Real Madrid will need to be near-perfect for the remainder of the campaign to catch up with Barcelona, whose run to top spot has been built on a defense which has been breached just seven times in 22 La Liga encounters.
Manchester United are one of the few sides this season to have had such success against Barcelona’s rearguard. They could easily have scored more than twice at the Camp Nou, and the visitors to Old Trafford will need to tighten up for the second leg.
They are certainly capable of doing just that. This is a team that has kept 17 clean sheets in Spain’s top flight in 2022/23. If Barcelona were to shut out United on Thursday, they would be in with an excellent chance of progressing to the last 16 of the Europa League.
“I think it was a great game. Two attacking teams. I think it was a Champions League game, even more than that, so I really enjoyed the game,” Ten Hag said last week - and that view was shared by his opposite number.
"It [this fixture[ can be a final, a semi-final, a quarter-final maybe in the future of the Champions League, but now we are in the Europa League and we are coming back,” said Xavi.
There is no reason why Thursday’s encounter will be any different. First legs often set the tone for the tie overall, so it would be unusual for last week’s humdinger to be followed by a tight, tense stalemate.
Manchester United are the favorites to advance with the best online sportsbooks. That feels fair since they have home advantage and have been so strong at Old Trafford of late.
But Barcelona can beat any team in Europe away from home on their day. And the abolition of the away goals rule means United’s two strikes at the Camp Nou are less significant than they would have been previously.
The best way to go from a betting perspective is both teams to score and over 2.5 goals. Frontlines got the better of backlines last time out and we envisage the same happening here, with Ten Hag and Xavi unlikely to temper their attacking intent.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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