Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has claimed that he would have preferred the game against Barcelona to have been a final rather than a play-off round.
As a result of failing to top their group, United were forced to play a play-off round against the Blaugrana who were eliminated in the group stages of the Champions League.
United are set to travel to Spain to clash against the Catalan club at Camp Nou before the return leg at Old Trafford just seven days later.
Speaking ahead of the game, Ten Hag praised the Spanish giants and confirmed his excitement at facing such calibre of opposition.
The Dutchman took time to praise Xavi and the work done by the Barca legend.
Ten Hag told UEFA.com, “I think Barcelona and us as well would have preferred to play this match in the final. We are looking forward to it, it takes a lot of energy searching for that finish and it will be a great game.”
“Hopefully, everyone is fit for Barcelona and for us. So, we see a game that will be played at the highest level. As a player, I admire Barcelona’s manager, Xavi. Barcelona, the way they played with him: he was such an important part of the team.”
“You can see the philosophy he now brings to his Barcelona. I really like his team, the attacking way of play. I think he is heading in the right direction. I think it’s going to be a good challenge between Manchester United and Barcelona.”
Both sets of managers will have to contend with selection dilemmas, what with a number of important stars not available to feature.
Ten Hag will not be able to call on the services of Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer.
Both players are suspended after picking up three yellow cards in the group stages – Martinez for United and Sabitzer for Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Xavi will not be able to rely on Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Busquets. The duo are injured.
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