Barcelona have been drawn against Manchester United in the Europa League knockout round play-offs, and the two heavyweights will lock horns in February next year.
The Catalan giants have dropped into the Europa League after finishing third behind Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in their Champions League group.
United failed to avoid the play-offs after ending up second behind Real Sociedad.
Barca manager Xavi says they are unfortunate to be pitted against a formidable opponent in Man Utd, who have made great progress under Erik ten Hag this season.
Speaking to the press ahead of the Osasuna clash, Xavi said(h/t Sport): “The draw has given us the most difficult opponent once again.
“But we will look forward to it and we will compete. They are a historic side. They have grown a lot with the arrival of Ten Hag – they have great players.
“It’s the worst draw we could have got. Once again. No luck. Sometimes it’s a plus to play against the best sides. Maybe it will bring the best out of us here and at Old Trafford. It’s a challenge.”
Another interesting aspect of the draw is that Cristiano Ronaldo will face his old foes.
The Portuguese international came up against Barca several times during his time at Real Madrid while boasting an impressive record in El Clasico.
The 37-year-old was also outstanding during his last outing against Barca. He netted a brace for Juventus in the 3-0 victory in the 2020/21 Champions League group stage game at Camp Nou.
But that version of Ronaldo is no more to be seen as he has suffered a massive decline this season.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has fallen out of favour under Ten Hag, and there is already speculation that he could seek an exit from Old Trafford in January.
Despite the struggles, Xavi refused to write off Ronaldo, stating that the Portuguese international is still a difference maker.
“Ronaldo in decline?” Xavi added. “He seems to me to be a great player who has marked an era in world football and can still make a difference.”
Barca and Man Utd share a long-standing rivalry at the European stage, but this will be their first-ever meeting in Europa League.
The Blaugrana have the edge over the Red Devils in their head-to-head record, winning five of their last ten games in European competitions, drawing four times and losing only once.
The Spanish side reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League last season before losing to eventual title winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
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