When the balls were drawn out for the Champions League quarter-finals, many felt it marked the end of Manchester United’s run in the competition despite beating the highly-fancied PSG in dramatic circumstances in the previous round. However, hope is not all lost for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Barcelona showed in their game against Villarreal that they can be exploited, due to their less than solid back four. Despite Lionel Messi starting on the bench, Barca raced into a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Philippe Coutinho and Malcom but were quickly pegged back.
The back line, made up of Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba, waas dragged around from pillar to post as Villarreal worked their way back into the game. Samuel Chukwueze replied quickly before the hosts put in a stunning second half showing.
Goals from Karl Toko Ekambi, Vincente Iborra and Carlos Bacca put them 4-2 in front heading into injury time and it was truly an attacking display that rattled this Barcelona back line. It was the second time that that Barca have conceded four in the league this season but they still managed to escape with a point.
Messi hopped off the bench to whip in his sixth free-kick of the season in the 90th minute before Luis Suarez salvaged a late late equaliser to share the spoils. However, this game did prove Barcelona’s defence is shaky at times and can collapse under pressure.
This season they have conceded more league goals than Getafe, Valencia and Atletico Madrid and so often Lionel Messi has bailed them out. They have kept just one clean sheet in their last five games and face a tough test this weekend against their closest rivals, Atletico.
Of course, their attack is sublime, sumptuous and almost unstoppable. But they do leak goals and so often collapse when in comes to the crunch moments. Who can forget last season’s Champions League quarter-final when, with a 4-1 lead over Roma, they lost the second leg 3-0 in shocking circumstances as their back four wilted under the pressure they were put under.
We saw against PSG that Manchester United can press high and cause top quality sides problems with their harrying and counter-attacking pace. PSG, perennial bottlers, threw away their lead despite have scored two goals at Old Trafford and looked the more superior side in the first leg.
With the second leg at the Nou Camp, Barcelona could collapse once again and concede a flurry of away goals that could unceremoniously dump them out of the tournament. Keep the faith United fans, things may not be going your way at the moment but something spectacular could be right around the corner.