Barcelona will face the best Manchester United team for many years in the second leg of their Europa League knockout round tie at Old Trafford, the La Liga leaders’ coach Xavi Hernandez said on Wednesday.
After fighting back to earn a 2-2 draw with the Premier League side in a pulsating game at Camp Nou, Xavi believes his team will need to be at their best on Thursday to advance to the last 16.
“It will be a very difficult game, Manchester United are one of the best teams in Europe today and they’re showing it every game,” Xavi told a news conference.
“(Manager Erik) Ten Hag is doing a great job. They are a team that shows intensity, mentality, passion, and rhythm... we will need to match them at every level, to show personality and be loyal to our style.
“Above all, we need the bring the mentality to compete in Europe. We can say that Manchester United have returned and they are playing their best football in many years. It is a good opportunity to show that Barca can also compete.”
United is unbeaten in its last eight games in all competitions and is third in the Premier League standings with 49 points, five behind leader Arsenal.
It was the better side for large parts of the first leg and controlled the tempo but was denied by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen who made several outstanding saves to keep the Spanish team in the tie.
Xavi will be without the injured Pedri and Ousmane Dembele while Gavi is suspended.
“We came here with the desire and passion to compete,” Xavi said.
“We are looking forward to showing our best version on Thursday despite all the players we are missing. We all know it will be difficult but we have a team capable of advancing to the next round.”