After failing to perform in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona were dropped down to the Europa League for the second time in a row, after having never played in the competition prior to last season.
Xavi, who was part of the Barcelona teams that crushed Manchester United in two different Champions League finals, will now be facing the Red Devils in the Europa League as manager. And, as providence would have it, he will be doing it as the manager of the Catalan club.
The former Al-Sadd manager has spoken on the draw and his side’s chances in progressing to the round of 16. He praised Erik ten Hag for the work he has done at the club while expressing his feelings about getting an unfavourable opponent.
“The draw has given us the most difficult rival again, like in the Champions League group stage,” Xavi said. “Luck was not on our side. Manchester United are a great rival, a historic club… the worst that we could wish for.
“They have great individualities, but I’d highlight the group they have. We’ll prepare well, analyse the opponent as we have to.
It’s not just Cristiano [Ronaldo], we are going to face a team that has grown a lot under [Erik] ten Hag and we’ll have to challenge them on the pitch. [They are a] big historic club, they will have the same urgency to win as us.”
Barcelona will welcome Manchester United to the Spotify Camp Nou on February 16, 2023 before travelling to Old Trafford on February 23, 2023. They will be looking to keep their historical advantage over the Red Devils, who are their favourite victims from among the English clubs.
The Catalan giants have also achieved a milestone in their chase for a first LaLiga title since 2019. They are now top of LaLiga for the first time since their defeat to Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season back in October.
This season is the first time since the 2020/21 season that Barcelona have clinched top spot in the league. They have been top on two previous occasions during the season but were ousted by Real Madrid.
They will have another Madrid side to thank for thisatest achievement, however. Their Clasico rivals fell 3-2 to Rayo Vallecano in one of the lesser Madrid derbies on Monday night to keep Barcelona two points clear at the top of LaLiga.