FC Barcelona to play Manchester United in Champions League quarterfinal
The Catalans welcome the return to fitness of Ousmane Dembélé, adding another dimension to their attack line
Barcelona’s route to the Champions League final is clear. The Catalan giants will face Manchester United in the quarterfinals, before then facing the winner of Liverpool and Porto should they progress to the semifinal. This is the 12th consecutive season that Barcelona have qualified for the quarterfinal.
Ernesto Valverde's forces are hoping to make history and win in Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium for the first time ever. Barcelona have played on four occasions, with two matches ending in draws and two in defeat.
The blaugrana will have received two boosts of confidence this week ahead of this Champions League tie.
The weekend's 2-0 victory over title challengers Atletico Madrid has now put Barça 11 points clear of their closest rivals in the league table, while the return of Ousmane Dembélé from injury will give an attack line that already boasts of Leo Messi and Luis Suarez an extra dimension.
"We're really looking forward to it, it's a fantastic setting here," Valverde told reporters. "I think form is important with regard to confidence and we're in confident mood, you can see that, but we have to make things go in our favor.
[United] had a poor start to the season, now they're in great form, they've got some really quick players, strong players and they're really dangerous from set pieces, he added"
The return leg will be played next week, Tuesday April 16, in Camp Nou. Kick off in both legs is 9pm.
The showdown between Barcelona and United will be a replay of the final played ten years ago at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, when strikes from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi gave Pep Guardiola's side the glory. The two sides then met in another final two years later, where again the Catalans came out on top, this time with a 3-1 victory.
The tie also sees new United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer return to the Camp Nou, twenty years after one of the competition's most famous and dramatic moments, in the Champions League final 1999.
The Norwegian striker netted Manchester United's second injury-time goal to turn an almost certain defeat to Bayern Munich into the most unlikely of wins.
The blaugrana made it to the quarterfinal with an emphatic 5-1 aggregate win over French rivals Lyon in the round of 16, with all goals coming in the second leg at home.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will be banking on their strong home form to progress to the latest stages of the tournament after they set a new Champions League record in the victory over Lyon, going 30 games unbeaten at home in Europe’s premier competition.
Their unbeaten streak includes 27 victories and three draws. Some of the highlights during that run includes the unforgettable 6-1 comeback against Paris Saint Germain, and the 3-0 semifinal win against Bayern Munich on the way to lifting the trophy in 2014/15.
The last team to beat Barcelona in the Camp Nou were Bayern Munich, who were eliminated from the competition this week at the hands of Liverpool. The new home undefeated record set by Barça this week overtakes the record set by the Bavarian side back in 2002.
This year the final of the Champions League will be played in Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitana stadium, on Saturday, June 1.
Quarterfinal draw in full:
Ajax vs Juventus
Liverpool vs Porto
Tottenham vs Manchester
Manchester United vs Barcelona
Tottenham/Manchester City vs Ajax/Juventus
Barcelona/Manchester United vs Liverpool/Porto