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Apr 23, 2008

Iniesta and Messi will be the two key players for Barcelona against Machester UnitedManchester United will be hoping to beat Barcelona in a stadium where the club's only Champions League victory was scripted. Barcelona and United have met seven times before, with both sides claiming two victories each. Barcelona had a torrid season domestically where they are virtually out of the Title race and may have to play the qualifier for the next season Champions league season. More over add to this Barcelona's perennial problem with English opponents - Barcelona have lost eight out of fifteen two legged ties against English opponents, this fact should give additional belief for Manchester United. Manchester United has a squad which is brimming with confidence and has undoubtedly one of the worlds’ inform player in the form of Christiano Ronaldo. Already this has been billed a match between the young guns - Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. For all these positives, Manchester United's records against Spanish opponents are not that spectacular - they have lost five out of mine two-legged tie against Spanish opponents. They have played 16 time Spanish opponents in Spain, only to win just one. Barcelona's home record against English opponents is impressive, with their only tow losses coming against Liverpool. But one thing Barcelona knows for sure is that they have to win the home leg, as most of their elimination comes after a home defeat.
Thierry Henry has been declared fit for playing in today’s tie. But most probably he might have to start on the bench. Early indications from Rijkaard and all corners, indicate a high chance of Messi returning back to the starting lineup. Has he regained all the match fitness is a question which is yet to be answered? Who will partner Eto and Messi upfront is the serious topic of discussion in every Barcelona blog and forums. But early indication suggest that everyone prefer Iniesta, as I written in my last post Should Henry Start against Manchester United. If Iniesta moves upfront then Gudjonsen might partner Xavi and Toure in the midfield. Toure had an excellent last match, hope he can repeat the same today also. Hope Rijkaard does not rush deco to start has he has no match practice. The other option up front is Iniesta moving to middle with Bojan starting on the left. But looking at the importance of this match, it would be wise to start the youngsters on the bench. Thuram has been included in the squad, but most probably we might find Marquez and Milito partnering again in the centre. For those who are wondering where Puyol is, let me remind you that he remains suspended for this match. Zambrotta is expected to start on the right and Sylvinho is expected to start on the left.

Barcelona forwards will be hoping that lady fortune partner them in this tie. But their defense has to be on their toes against the likes of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo. Valdez should be on high alert as they will constantly raid the Barcelona goal mouth. Ferguson is expected to pack the midfield with defensive players to cut down Barcelona’s possession.

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