Barca to test United mettle

Manchester United have without doubt improved since the departure of Jose Mourinho, but just how much will be shown when they take on Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.


The first leg of the tie takes place at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, with the Red Devils having needed last-minute drama to oust Paris St Germain in the last round, with Marcus Rashford coolly converting a decisive penalty in the French capital.


However, the efforts of winning 3-1 in Paris seem to have taken their toll, with United having lost three of the four games they have played since then.


United rested, Barca in form


They should be well-rested, however, having not been in action at the weekend, while Barca were in the heat of battle as they overcame Atletico Madrid 2-0 to make all but certain of yet another Spanish league title.


That victory extended Barca’s unbeaten record to 16 games, a run which includes a thumping 5-1 win at home to Lyon last time out in the Champions League.


Despite the disparity in recent from, though, the visitors are 2.00 to win at Old Trafford and that is a little bit narrow to support, with 3.60 for the draw seeming to offer plenty more value.


Both teams to score certainly looks highly appealing, but at 1.60 will not offer a big return, while recent meetings between the two sides cannot help you too much.


Rashford in good touch


In the goalscorers markets, Rashford certainly has to be considered, having netted in three of his last four games, with the youthful England international starting to deliver more consistently on his undoubted potential.


He is 2.85 to score at any time on Wednesday, while Anthony Martial at 3.40 also has some merit, with his recent run of just one goal in five appearances coming at a time when he is being hampered by fitness issues.


Amazingly, the last clash of these two giants came in the Champions League final of 2011, when the Catalans won 3-1, having also claimed final glory against the Red Devils two years earlier by a 2-0 scoreline.


Lionel Messi was amongst the scorers in both of those games and the Argentinian legend remains an incredible striker, having already found the net no fewer than 43 times already this season, including four hat-tricks – three of which have come away from the Nou Camp.


He is 1.80 to score at any time at Old Trafford and the concern for Blaugrana head coach Ernesto Valverde is surely that his side depend on the South American maestro a little more than is really healthy.


Suarez support helps Messi


His main help comes from former Liverpool ace Luis Suarez, who will no doubt be eager to get one over on the Reds’ deadly rivals.


The Uruguayan has 23 Barca goals to his name this season, however, none of those have come in the Champions League and will be more than keen to show his worth in European competition.


At 2.10 to score at any time and 5.00 to net the first goal of the game, Suarez is certainly one to watch, especially as he seems to have the knack of delivering when the pressure is really on.


Meanwhile, the only Champions League quarter-final tie without English representation sees Juventus take on Ajax, with the first leg in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening.


History on Juve’s side


There is plenty of Champions League history between these two clubs, with Juve unbeaten in six previous meetings in the competition.


However, the clashes have often been tight, with two games drawn and three ending in a single-goal victory for the Italians, who are, of course, now armed with former Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.


Slightly surprisingly, the outright result market is not as one-sided as you might expect, with Juve still offering some value for the win at 2.35.


It is 3.30 for a one-goal win for the visitors at the Johan Cruyff Arena, where Ajax have lost only once so far in all competitions this season.


Keane steps up for Bianconeri


In the goalscorer markets, Ronaldo is perhaps not the player to watch with Bianconeri youngster Moise Kean having taken centre stage in recent outings by scoring in all of his last five games for club and country.


He is 2.40 to net at any time in Amsterdam, while for the home side Dusan Tadic at 3.20 is worth following, as the former Southampton forward has netted 26 goals in 37 appearances in an outstanding first season with Ajax.


Ronaldo is 1.90 to score at any time, so he is not a total write-off and given that he netted a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in his last Champions League outing, then he will still have plenty of takers.


Time to end Juve drought?


Finally, a mention for the outright competition market, where Juventus – who will be desperate to see the investment of snaring Ronaldo pay off – are 4.35 as they bid to end a Champions League drought which stretches all the way back to 1996 – when they defeated Ajax in the final, on penalties.


Juve, beaten by Real Madrid in the finals of both 2015 and 2017, are 2.60 to reach the final, which this year will be staged at the Metropolitano in Madrid.


And, the Italian giants will be desperate to improve on a record which has seen them lose a record seven of the nine European Cup finals they have been involved in.


The winner of the all-English clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City awaits in the semi-finals, with the Citizens currently the 3.25 favourites to win the competition for what would be the first time in their history.