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Former Barcelona defender talks Gavi, Pedri, Araujo, Frenkie, Balde, Rashford

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Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ahead of FC Barcelona’s UEFA Europa League contest against Manchester United, former defender Junior Firpo granted an interview to SPORT, during which he discussed the Blaugrana’s prospects in the clash at Old Trafford as well as the crop of youngsters coming through.

Firpo was at Barcelona until the summer of 2021, when he left the club for Leeds United after failing to get regular game-time at Camp Nou. The left-back recently faced Manchester United in the Premier League in back-to-back matches and knows how difficult it is to beat them.

When asked if it will be difficult for Barcelona without Pedri and Gavi, who will miss the game against Manchester United due to injury and suspension, respectively, Firpo replied:

“Well, it’s more complicated, but I think Barça right now is totally different to what it was in recent years. A lot of young players, people who haven’t won so much and who are hungry. I’m very happy for them.”

“You see Araujo, who is now one of the best, if not the best centre-back in the world. To see how he has grown is spectacular. And Frenkie! I spoke to him the other day and he’s super happy. Things are finally working out for him.”

“Of course, they’re going to be missed. Gavi in a game like this… But, what I’m saying, Barça have a very competitive squad now,” he added.

Firpo was also full of praise for young Alejandro Balde, stating that Barcelona had a left-back at their disposal for the next decade, saying:

“Balde impresses me. When I was there, he’d come up every now and then and you’d see him. He was a plane, very fast, but he was very young. Now you see him and he defends super well. In one-on-one, it’s difficult to get away from him and attacking he’s very powerful. They have a full-back for ten years.”

On whether things would have turned out differently for him at Barcelona if he played under Xavi, Firpo said: “Sometimes I think that I wish I was there now with the maturity I have today. That’s why I say that what Pedri, Gavi, Balde… are doing has much more value. It’s just that it’s an outrage.

“It’s true that it’s a different context. It was another Barça and now everything is positive, but I still think it’s incredible what they’re doing. They want to win everything and that’s fundamental.”

Barcelona favourites against Man United, claims Firpo

However, Firpo warned the Blaugrana to be wary of Marcus Rashford, in particular, who has been in terrific form of late.

“They’re going to suffer because United are a team that are doing very well at the moment and they have a player whose every touch goes in, Rashford,” he said.

“But by keeping an eye on Rashford, taking the ball away from them, and keeping it longer than them, I think they can more or less dominate them.”

Furthermore, the Leeds United defender went on to name Barcelona as the favourites for the “Champions League” calibre tie against Manchester United, as he said:

“It’s a Champions League tie! It’s probably better than many that are played in the Champions League. And I don’t see that they don’t have the team to fight against United. On the contrary, I think Barça are favourites.”

“They have to control the transitions a lot, that’s where the key will be because they’re very quick up front, but if they do that Barça are favourites,” he added.

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