In a little over two days, Barcelona are set to play one of their biggest matches of the season as they host Manchester United for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League playoffs.
The Blaugrana are coming into the game on a hot streak, having not lost a single one of their last 16 matches across all competitions, winning the previous 11 in a row.
But, Manchester United will be no pushovers, having strung together a good run of results themselves under Erik ten Hag. Indeed, the Red Devils have lost just one of their last 16 matches in all competitions heading into the clash at Camp Nou.
One of the main factors behind Manchester United’s strong run has been Marcus Rashford. The 25-year-old is easily enjoying the best campaign of his career to date as he has already plundered 21 goals and eight assists from 34 games in all competitions.
Rashford has scored 13 goals in all competitions since the World Cup break and will present the biggest threat to Barcelona on Thursday night.
But, according to Javi Miguel of AS, Xavi has already come up with a plan to negate the danger posed by Rashford. In order to counter the England international, the Barcelona manager plans to deploy Ronald Araujo to mark him closely.
Xavi has previously used this strategy against Real Madrid, pitting Araujo against Vinicius Jr to keep the Brazilian winger quiet. And, the 43-year-old tactician will once again look up to his Uruguayan defensive mainstay to cut off Rashford’s influence at Camp Nou.
The 25-year-old has been deployed mainly on the left flank by ten Hag and it could result in Araujo playing at right-back to stop him. However, it is not a given as the Englishman has also played as a centre-forward on several occasions.
At the same time, Raphinha’s tracking of Luke Shaw, who combines a lot with Rashford, will also be key for Barça.