It’s crunch time.

Barcelona have the upper hand in this second leg quarter-final tie, after scoring an away goal at the Theatre of Dreams against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.

One pertinent question is: how much confidence will Solskjaer give this Manchester United squad? Who could forget Solskjaer’s last-gasp goal at Camp Nou in 1999 to win the club’s first continental title in the Champions League era, defeating Bayern Munich 2-1.

Solskjaer said pre-match that “there will be many emotions” from the memory of that match – but United will need more than that to get them over the line come Wednesday morning.

History suggests the home side will go through: Barcelona have progressed from 39 of their 41 European ties in which they won the first leg away from home. On top of that, there’s no shying away from the fact that they have Lionel Messi.

The Argentinian has scored 22 goals in 31 Champions League games against English opponents, more than any other player in the European competition.

The big caveat, however, is at this stage in the competition Messi hasn’t been able to find the net. He’s made 12 quarter-final appearances and not scored a goal at this point in the Champions League since 2013.

Moreover, Barcelona are at risk of losing in the quarter-finals for the fourth successive time. The Red Devils are looking to match what Roma, Juventus and Atletico Madrid have all done over the past campaigns and advance to the semi-finals at the Blaugrana’s expense.

Barcelona last won the Champions League back in 2014/15, defeating Juventus 3-1 at the Berlin Olympiastadion.

Manchester United are going to have to find a way past Barcelona’s tough defence, having not managed a shot on target at home (for the first time in a Champions League game since March 2005).

In his press conference, Solskjaer commented on the difficulty awaiting his team: “In football, anything can happen.

“We know we can still be in this tie if we keep a clean sheet. In the 93rd minute, if we get a set-piece, we are taller and bigger than them.

“We need to defend well and we need to score. I don’t mind if it is in the 93rd minute.”

Team news

Barcelona

Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique all return to the fold, after being rested at the weekend against minnows Huesca. Head coach Ernesto Valverde stated Messi is “fully fit” ahead of the all-important clash on Wednesday morning.

Ousmane Dembele played 67 minutes against Huesca and could see some Champions League game time, after missing the first leg.

Full squad: Ter Stegen, Nélson Semedo, Gerard Piqué, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio, Coutinho, Arthur, Luis Suárez, Messi, O. Dembélé, Cillessen, Malcom, Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Vidal, Samuel Umtiti and Aleñá.

Rafinha and Vermaelen are injured, while Todibo, Murillo and Boateng are left out via technical decision, according to the club’s statement.

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez is among United’s 22-man squad and returns against his former club after a six-week knee injury.

Nemanja Matic also returns.

Full travelling squad: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford.

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Louise Taffa
taffa.louise@gmail.com

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