Manchester United - Barcelona Preview: Red Devils' 22,000-mile world tour comes to a glamorous end
The two European giants clash in Gothenburg on Wednesday as Sir Alex Ferguson's side's world tour comes to a high-profile and exciting conclusion
By Ryan Benson
Valencia, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
Nani, Scholes, Carrick, Young
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Planas
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Sanchez, Messi, Rafinha
Following the African and Asian legs of their summer tour, Manchester United's squad is significantly stronger with numerous players returning to the squad after international duty this summer.
Youngsters such as Davide Petrucci, Ryan Tunnicliffe and a number of others have returned home as Nani, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are back following their involvement in Euro 2012, but the biggest boost to Sir Alex Ferguson is the fitness of his captain Nemanja Vidic after missing eight months of action.
Patrice Evra missed out on the draw with Valerenga on Sunday with his wife expecting a baby, but the club confirmed he would be back with the squad for the clash with Barcelona.
Barcelona have only played two previous pre-season matches with both starting line-ups made up of a mixture of youngsters and first-team players, while it is likely that Tito Vilanova will start his strongest side in Gothenburg on Wednesday.
Last time out Barcelona drew 2-2 with Paris Saint-Germain before overcoming Carlo Ancelotti’s men 4-1 on penalties, with Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Carles Puyol and Alexis Sanchez all appearing from the start alongside Sergi Roberto, Carles Planas and Rafinha, the younger brother of Thiago Alcantara.
Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi are also all available and are in contention to start as the two sides look to set down a marker to the other.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
United have played four matches so far in pre-season and are yet to lose, drawing against Valerenga and Ajax Cape Town, added to wins over AmaZulu and Shenghai Shenhua.
In Barcelona's two previous matches this summer, they have already scored more goals than United after striking twice against both PSG and Hamburg. United have scored just three and have not scored more than once in a game.
By the start of the season United will have clocked up 22,000 miles of travel on their world tour after matches in South Africa, China, Norway and now Sweden.
The last time these two sides met, the Premier League side ran out 2-1 winners in Maryland, USA just over 12 months ago.
In their last five meetings each team has won twice plus one draw, with the last competitive clash being the 2011 Champions League final which Barcelona won 3-1.
When the La Liga side triumphed at Wembley in 2011, they completed 662 passes to United's 301.
In that same match Barcelona had 63 per cent of the possession.
Javier Hernandez (pictured) has not scored a goal for United since March 18, a run of nine matches including friendlies.
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Top 3 Predictions
Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona
- 19.59 %
Manchester United 1-3 Barcelona
- 15.47 %
Manchester United 1-2 Barcelona
- 7.95 %
|Club Friendlies (FR)||8 Aug 2012||Manchester United 0 - Barcelona 0|
|Club Friendlies (FR)||31 Jul 2011||Barcelona 1 - Manchester United 2|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||28 May 2011||Barcelona 3 - Manchester United 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||27 May 2009||Barcelona 2 - Manchester United 0|
|19 May 2013||West Bromwich Albion 5 - Manchester United 5||EPL|
|12 May 2013||Manchester United 2 - Swansea City 1||EPL|
|5 May 2013||Manchester United 0 - Chelsea FC 1||EPL|
|28 Apr 2013||Arsenal FC 1 - Manchester United 1||EPL|
|22 Apr 2013||Manchester United 3 - Aston Villa 0||EPL|
|Returns:||Manchester United £35.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Draw £34.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Barcelona £19.09||Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
|1||David de Gea||Goalkeeper|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|-||Ilie Sánchez Farrés||Midfielder|
However, there was one aspect of his performance that most will not have seen before and that was his link-up play with Antonio Valencia, who was playing right-back, with the two forming quite the formidable partnership down the right and it will likely be replicated on Wednesday with Rafael da Silva still on international duty.
It is no secret that Nani can be rather hit-and-miss, but on his day he can terrorise any left-back in world football and he will relish a battle against the inexperienced Planas, or the slow Puyol.
|Andrés Iniesta Luján|
Iniesta, fresh from yet another tournament triumph with Spain, is expected to play some part against United and if he continues his Euro 2012 form then the United backline and midfield will be in for a tough evening.
In Poland and Ukraine Iniesta was masterful, with his passing and ball control as good as ever, while he also seemed to take on more responsibility in creating attacks as Xavi sat back a little more, and that could be an ominous sign for United.
Nevertheless, the two sides are fairly evenly matched as they both possess very potent weapons in the shape of Messi, Iniesta, Rooney and Nani and a draw looks the most likely outcome with nothing at stake.