Barcelona hosts Manchester United at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday with a chance to advance to the 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals for the first time since 2015. Below are three things to watch as the Catalans look to protect a 1-0 lead.
- Can United generate scoring opportunities? The EPL side outshot Barcelona 10-6 in the first leg, but did not record a single shot on target. Barcelona’s defense has been tough to crack when it counts this year, and Marc-André ter Stegen has been up to the task the few times he’s been challenged. Man United have plenty of talent up top, but they were largely stifled last week. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team could give itself a massive boost with an early goal like the one Romelu Lukaku scored in Paris to spark his team’s improbable comeback.
- What version of Ousmane Dembélé will we see? Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez are playing so well that the Frenchman’s recent five-game absence was not exactly pronounced. But nobody watching this team closely can deny that Philippe Coutinho was a clear downgrade during that stretch. When Dembélé is at his best – his injuries have been about the only thing that have slowed him down – Barcelona’s attack goes from potent to unstoppable. The fact he started and played 67 minutes in Saturday’s scoreless draw at Huesca while Barça’s top players rested is a sign he’s fit for Tuesday.
- Will Tuesday be all about Messi? We at High Press Soccer are among a few soccer outlets that have not been able to say enough about the Argentine’s current season. In the UCL round of 16, Lyon managed to keep him – and his teammates – quiet in the first leg. The 0-0 draw at home gave the French club hope as it traveled to Camp Nou for the second leg. By halftime, Lyon was down 2-0 en route to a 5-1 blowout loss, as Messi scored twice and added two assists. Against ManU’s shaky back line, the Argentine is poised for another huge night. I’m not predicting he’ll be quite as dominant as he was against Lyon, but expect to be reminded, once again, that we’re watching the G.O.A.T.
Oddsmakers like FanDuel Sportsbook NJ view Manchester United as a longshot at +750. Barcelona is priced at -280 (the draw is +420). FiveThirtyEight only give United a 9% chance to advance. Having said all of that, United have faced these long odds before–as in, just the previous round. Stranger things have happened.