Barcelona vs Manchester United combined starting lineup ft Casemiro, de Jong
Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich failed to excite football fans on the return of the UEFA Champions League as the Bavarians walked away with a 0-1 win. AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur was largely underwhelming as well, ending 1-0 in favour of the Italian capital.
All eyes will be on Camp Nou today, as Barcelona host Manchester United in the Europa League knockout stages.
The two European giants are used to facing each other in the Champions League finals, but recent history has not been kind to them at all.
United could only muster a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League last season, while Barcelona were relegated from the UCL group stages for a second season running.
That said, though, both teams have found their feet this season under the modern coaching of Xavi and Erik ten Hag. The Catalans sit top of La Liga, 11 points clear of Real Madrid, while United have cemented their third place.
As such, this fixture should be one to watch out for. Ahead of it, we at Barça Universal run down a combined starting lineup from both teams. 4-2-2-2 is the formation of choice to get the most out of this hypothetical team.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
One of the best goalkeepers in Europe this season, ter Stegen leads the charts for the most clean sheets in the top-five leagues with a whopping 16 out of 21 games. Unsurprisingly, the Catalans’ incredible defensive record will dictate the picks for this backline.
He has been arguably Barcelona’s best player, too, and is now also the fourth-choice captain.
Not to mention, he is head and shoulders clear of David de Gea in terms of modern goalkeeping.
RB: Jules Kounde
The trend continues with Kounde as the right-back, who has been in impeccable form since the World Cup ended. Not to forget, the Frenchman has been among the best defenders in Spain for a few seasons running now.
The only difference is, he has largely started as a right-back this season, playing the role to near-perfection.
That said, Kounde’s competition in this role, Diego Dalot, has been largely impressive as well. The Portuguese has taken a huge step in terms of his technical and tactical growth, but still comfortably falls short of the Barcelona ace.
RCB: Ronald Araujo
Araujo has played 11 games this season in the league, and has managed to keep a clean sheet in seven of those. The Uruguayan, when fit, walks into any starting lineup in European football and is arguably the most in-form player in his position.
His performance against Villarreal should be reason enough for a spot over Raphael Varane, who has himself been second-best to Lisandro Martinez in central defence at Manchester United.
LCB: Lisandro Martinez
The first United pick in this team, World Champion Lisandro Martinez makes the cut over Andreas Christensen. He has been the best player for Red Devils’ this season, and, individually, one of the best CBs in the Premier League.
He will, however, miss the first leg against Barcelona due to suspension, which should be a huge relief for Xavi and co.
LB: Alejandro Balde
Possibly the toughest choice between two players in this starting lineup: Alejandro Balde or Luke Shaw. The former is enjoying an incredible breakthrough campaign, and has four assists to his name, compared to Shaw’s two.
He has also created five big chances in the league, one more than his English counterpart. Shaw does, however, average a fair few more chances created: 1.1/game vs Balde’s 0.6.
And while Shaw is absolutely world-class and one of the best in that position, the choice of Balde here is largely tactical. The Spaniard is better at providing width as a winger, which is better suited to a narrow setup like the 4-2-2-2.
Casemiro’s slow, but strong integration into the Manchester United XI this season is largely responsible for their changed fortunes this season. The Brazilian has been immense playing in defensive midfield, and is an easy pick over Sergio Busquets’ whose good performances can be counted on two hands.
LCM: Frenkie de Jong
Completing the double pivot, we have a player specialised in that box-to-box role – Frenkie de Jong. While he would be an easy choice over Fred or Christian Eriksen anyway, the Dutchman’s incredible run of form has to be credited.
Playing a deeper role in Xavi’s midfield-four, de Jong has seen a huge resurgance of late, and is among Barcelona’s most consistent performers. And with Busi out for a few more games, he is expected to take up a more serious responsibility in the first phase of build-up now.
A very simple and straightforward choice, we have Pedri starting as one of the two attacking midfielders in this team. The Spaniard is among the very best midfielders in the world, and has played a variety of roles to cement that claim.
The most recent one being as a 10, playing behind Robert Lewandowski. This has resulted in six goals in the league campaign for him, including the winner against Villarreal, Girona, Getafe, and Celta Vigo.
Pedri’s partner in crime, Gavi takes up the second spot in attacking midfield. The youngster has been chosen over Bruno Fernandes almost only because of his consistency. The Portuguese has had a fair few high-quality performances but has been unable to maintain it throughout the season.
Not to forget, he has been largely playing this role recently, as a pseudo-left winger who tucks in to create the box in the centre of the park.
RCF: Marcus Rashford
Xavi called Rashford ‘one of the most dangerous attackers’ in world football right now, and there is little proving anything else. He has the most goal contributions in the top five leagues in 2023, and has a total of 12 goals and three assists in the Premier League this season.
Playing as the right-leaning striker in this team, Rashford will provide width from the right to complement Alejandro Balde on the left, while Kounde inverts.
LCF: Robert Lewandowski
We round off this starting XI with one of the greatest ever to do it as a striker, Robert Lewandowski. The Polish forward has a mammoth 14 goals and five assists in the league this season, which solidifies his place in the team.
Barça-United Combined XI: ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Martinez, Balde; Casemiro, de Jong; Pedri, Gavi; Rashford, Lewandowski