Man Utd face Barcelona in EL play-off | Xavi: A massive task


Manchester United will face Barcelona in their Europa League play-off in February, while Jose Mourinho’s Roma will take on RB Salzburg.

Xavi’s side dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group, while Man Utd lost out on top spot to Real Sociedad.

Barcelona manager Xavi reacted to the draw, said: “We will have to compete, going to Manchester against a really top rival and a historic side which has grown a lot with the arrival of (Erik) Ten Hag.

“[They have] great individual players and it is the toughest rival once again in the Europa League.

“We will have time to analyse it, they are a strong team in both defence and attack, not just for Cristiano Ronaldo, but other players [too]. Manchester United are a historic club and they also need to win. Two big teams and it’s going to be a massive task.”

The two sides have faced each other 13 times in European competition, although Man Utd have only won three of these meetings. The last came in April 2008 with Man Utd winning 1-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-finals.

After a goalless draw at the Nou Camp, Paul Scholes’ 14th-minute winner at Old Trafford knocked Barcelona out. Man Utd would go on to win the competition that year, beating Chelsea on penalties in the final.

But Barcelona have won each of the last four meetings, including two Champions League finals. They were 2-0 winners at the Stadio Olimpico in May 2009 and beat Man Utd 3-1 at Wembley two years later.

Their last European match-up was in the 2018/19 quarter-finals with Barcelona winning 4-0 on aggregate.

It is also a chance for Cristiano Ronaldo to face off against his former El Clasico rival. The ex-Real Madrid player has scored 20 goals in 34 career appearances against Barcelona, although has never managed to do so for Man Utd.

Man United’s busy February schedule

  • February 11/12: Leeds vs Man Utd
  • February 16: Barcelona vs Man Utd
  • February 19/20: Man Utd vs Leicester
  • February 23: Man Utd vs Barcelona
  • February 26/27: Man Utd vs Brentford

The Europa League play-off comes in the middle of a busy February for Man Utd, who also face Leeds, Leicester and Brentford in the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho’s Roma will face RB Salzburg with the possibility of being drawn against his former Man Utd side if both teams qualify for the last 16.

Fellow Serie A side Juventus will take on Nantes, Sevilla – six-time winners of the Europa League – will face PSV Eindhoven and Ten Hag’s former team Ajax will take on Bundesliga side Union Berlin.

Europa League play-off fixtures in full

  • Barcelona vs Man Utd
  • Juventus vs Nantes
  • Sporting Lisbon vs FC Midtjylland
  • Shakhtar Donetsk vs Rennes
  • Ajax vs Union Berlin
  • Bayer Leverkusen vs Monaco
  • Sevilla vs PSV Eindhoven
  • RB Salzburg vs Roma

‘This is not Barcelona of old’

Stephen Warnock on Sky Sports News:

“It’s what we want to see as neutrals. You want to see the best teams going up against each other. They are great spectacles.

“Man Utd will fancy their chances. This isn’t a Barcelona of old.

“They are still struggling and haven’t got the quality and personnel that you would think would challenge for the top honours.”

‘Lewandowski a big challenge for Man Utd’

Barcelona thrashed Valladolid 4-0 with Robert Lewandowski on target again
Image: Robert Lewandowski will pose an issue for Man Utd, says Sue Smith

Sue Smith on Sky Sports News:

“Robert Lewandowski will certainly fancy his chances against Man Utd’s defence.

“It’s a big challenge for Man Utd and a big challenge for their defenders coming up against a player in Lewandowski who we know is absolutely brilliant in front of goal.”

When will the games be played?

The first legs of the last play-off round will be played on February 16, 2023, before the return legs a week later.

When will Arsenal learn last-16 opponents?

Arsenal’s automatic progression to the last 16 of this season’s Europa League means they will have to wait for the conclusion of the play-off round before learning who they will face next in the competition.

The draw for the last 16 of the Europa League will take place on February 24, 2023, a day after the play-off second legs, with the last-16 ties held on March 9 and March 16 respectively.

Europa League key dates

  • Play-off ties: February 16 and February 23
  • Last-16 draw: February 24
  • Last-16 ties: March 9 and March 16
  • Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 17
  • Quarter-final ties: April 13 and April 20
  • Semi-final ties: May 11 and May 18
  • Final: May 31 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary

Europa Conference League – Lazio face Cluj as Fiorentina take on Braga

In the Europa Conference League play-off draw, Lazio were drawn against Cluj while fellow Serie A side Fiorentina will face Braga.

Anderlecht – formerly managed by Burnley boss Vincent Kompany – will face Ludogorets while Basel take on Trabzonspor for a place in the last-16.

The Premier League’s only representative – West Ham – won their group and are automatically into the round of 16 draw, which will take place in February.

Europa Conference League play-off fixtures in full

  • Qarabag vs Gent
  • Trabzonspor vs Basel
  • Lazio vs Cluj
  • Bodo/Glimt vs Lech Poznan
  • Braga vs Fiorentina
  • AEK Larnaca vs Dnipro-1
  • Sheriff Tiraspol vs FK Partizan
  • Ludogorets vs Anderlecht

When will the games be played?

The first legs of the last play-off round will be played on February 16, 2023, before the return legs a week later.

When will West Ham learn last-16 opponents?

West Ham will be in the Europa Conference League
Image: West Ham went straight into the Europa Conference League last 16 as group winners

West Ham’s automatic progression to the last 16 of this season’s Europa Conference League means they will have to wait for the conclusion of the play-off round before learning who they will face next in the competition.

The draw for the last 16 of the Europa Conference League will take place on February 24, 2023, a day after the play-off second legs, with the last-16 ties held on March 9 and March 16 respectively.

Europa Conference League key dates

  • Play-off ties: February 16 and February 23
  • Last-16 draw: February 24
  • Last-16 ties: March 9 and March 16
  • Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 17
  • Quarter-final ties: April 13 and April 20
  • Semi-final ties: May 11 and May 18
  • Final: June 7 at the Eden Arena in Prague, Czech Republic

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