Three Things Xavi Must Resolve Before FC Barcelona’s Manchester United Europa League Clash

Xavi Hernandez has three big issues to iron out before his team again take on Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday.

The Blaugrana and the Mancunians are currently tied 2-2 in the Europa League playoff after putting on a thrilling draw in the first leg at Camp Nou.

While it could be said that opening 30 minutes were pretty level, United suffocated Barca with their high-pace pressing and intensity from around the half hour mark until the hour mark.

Barca scored out of nowhere thanks to a header from Marcos Alonso, but United then took the lead through Marcus Rashford and a Jules Kounde own goal.

After Raphinha equalized on 76 minutes, it was then all Barca until the end with both coaches – Xavi and Erik ten Hag – feeling that their sides should have been awarded penalties.

Heading into Thursday’s decider, Xavi, who was criticized for tinkering with his team for the first meeting, has three issues to iron out if he wants the Catalans to advance to the last 16.

Who will deal with Rashford?

Xavi bafflingly took out Andreas Christensen in favor of Alonso for the first leg despite the Dane being one of the integral parts of a defense that has conceded just seven goals in 22 La Liga matches and has Barca top of the Spanish top flight by eight points.

Putting Araujo at right back to keep Rashford at bay, Xavi was outfoxed by Ten Hag who placed a figure that is arguably Europe’s best in-form striker more centrally.

A Jules Kounde that has played at right back for most of the season was given hell by the England target man, and his errors led to the own goal that gave United the lead.

In Manchester, Xavi should perhaps opt for a central pairing of Araujo and Christensen and put Araujo out wide again

Who plays left back?

Xavi went for Alba at Camp Nou but it has been a toss up between him and Alejandro Balde all season.

While the La Masia graduate offers more pace, Alba’s delivery into the box is unmatched.

The coach has to make a huge decision here.

Four midfielders or a return to 4-3-3?

An injury to Pedri and a suspension picked up by Gavi for a yellow card in the first leg paves the way for Sergi Roberto and Franck Kessie to start in a system of four midfielders.

With double pivots Frenkie de Jong and a Busquets returning from his own knock also likely to be picked, however, it is difficult to see who the creative false left winger is in this system.

Either Kessie or Roberto could be axed in favor of recent MVP Ferran Torres then, or Xavi returns to the 4-3-3 which has room for both Torres and Raphinha on either flank.