Lionel Messi's surprising streak and other talking points as Barcelona look to finish job

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Barcelona cruised to victory at home in the Champions League last-16.

Barcelona have the edge in their Champions League quarter-final tie ahead of the home leg on Tuesday having secured a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg away against Manchester United.

That slight advantage makes them favourites to go through to their first semi-final appearance in four years, but they will be wary of another United comeback.

Here’s a look at the talking points for Ernesto Valverde’s side.

BARCELONA LOOK TO HIT HIGHS OF LYON WIN

The first leg was by no means vintage Barcelona, but it didn’t need to be. An away goal and a lead to defend at home was a perfect outcome, especially given the scrappy performance.

Nonetheless, Valverde will expect an improved showing from his players. He gave most of them the weekend off, fielding a much-changed side against Huesca on Saturday, and though that game ended in a surprise draw, with the La Liga title effectively already sewn up the two dropped points matter far less than the potential for injury or fatigue going into Tuesday’s game.

In the last round, they came home after a 0-0 draw in Lyon and duly put the French side to the sword, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime and then blowing their opponents away with a late burst for a 5-1 win. This team knows what it’s capable of; now it’s a matter of delivering.

WILL VALVERDE FLIP THE TABLES ON UNITED?

Equally, however, Valverde must be wary of an improved showing from United. Though recent form has seen Tuesday’s opponents struggle both defensively and to create chances in attack, their 3-1 win in Paris in the previous round to overturn a two-goal deficit from the home leg against Paris Saint-Germain shows that when they’re at their best, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can be resilient and pounce on whatever opportunity comes their way.

Though it’s the sort of gameplan that draws ire from the diehard Blaugrana faithful, perhaps Valverde will consider handing over some of the initiative to United. Barcelona are deadly themselves on the break – there’s no weapon on the counter quite like Lionel Messi – and United tend to be ponderous and bereft of ideas when in possession.

Barcelona’s own possession-heavy game would suit Solskjaer’s side. Why not flip the tables? After all, it’s United who have to make all the running in this game.

TIME FOR MESSI TO END STREAK

A curious stat that invariably gets trotted out in the Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo debate is the Barcelona talisman’s record in Champions League knockout games.

After failing to score in the first leg Messi has now gone nearly 1000 minutes without scoring a Champions League quarter-final goal, with his last strike coming against PSG in 2013. In that time Barcelona have made it past the quarter-final stage only once, when they won the competition in the 2014/15 season.

Memories of last year’s defeat to Roma will be fresh for everyone in Barcelona, but especially Messi, who produced an uncharacteristically quiet display during the stunning 3-0 defeat in Rome that sent him and his team-mates crashing out despite having won the first leg 4-1 at home.

This time they have the advantage of being at home for the second leg, which should help Messi as well. He’ll want to end his personal barren streak.

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Paul Pogba insists Man United have every chance of overturning 1-0 deficit at Barcelona

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Paul Pogba is confident Manchester United can turn around their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, despite riding their luck against West Ham.

Two decades on from sealing the treble at the Nou Camp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will attempt to secure another memorable win at Barca’s home this Tuesday.

United suffered a 1-0 first-leg loss to the Spanish league champions but picked themselves up with a victory on Saturday, although United were sloppy and more than a little fortunate to overcome the Hammers.

Pogba’s brace from the spot sealed a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford and the World Cup winner is now looking to cause a shock in Catalonia.

“I think it’s a really important three points,” the midfielder said.

“We know about that. We wanted to do obviously better and score more goals, but we get the result that maybe we deserve.

“Now what we have to think about the next one, the next game, get some rest and get focused on Barcelona.

“That’s why we play football, to play against those teams, to play those games. A Champions League quarter-final is just beautiful. We just have to enjoy it, give our best and trust ourselves.”

United face an uphill battle at the Nou Camp but Barca certainly looked beatable in the first leg.

Solskjaer’s side have also proven their mettle when the chips are down, having made Champions League history in the previous round against Paris Saint-Germain by becoming the first team to progress after a first-leg home loss by two or more goals.

“The game is not done, it’s not closed,” Pogba said.

“I know it’s Barcelona, we’re playing in their home, but it’s never closed. It’s still 90 minutes.

“The first half is gone, now it’s the second half.”

Pogba missed that remarkable return leg at the Parc des Princes through suspension and will be looking to make his mark after a welcome return to form on Saturday.

One of few players to emerge from the West Ham match with any credit, the 26-year-old took his goal tally for the season to 16 with a pair of spot-kicks that saw him move away from his favoured stuttered run-up.

“Yeah, I can still go back to the old one!” Pogba told MUTV with a laugh.

“I just changed it because I think the keepers, they know how I shoot penalties and I just changed it to make a little difference.

“The most important thing is that the ball goes in and the victory, the three points.”

Pogba struck the killer blow just moments after David De Gea produced his latest moment of magic. Guilty of giving away possession in the build-up to Felipe Anderson’s goal, the United goalkeeper more than made amends with an outstanding stop to claw away Michail Antonio’s header.

“David is David,” Pogba said.

“We know about this. This is not something incredible. We’re used to it. And hopefully we’re going to keep being used to saves like that.

“I told him ‘this is normal for you, so I don’t congratulate you, I just don’t say anything, it’s normal’.

“He’s a top-class goalkeeper and this save showed it again. We’re really lucky that we have him.”

Luck certainly was not on West Ham’s side on Saturday evening, with Anderson seeing a goal wrongly ruled out for offside early in a match that the visitors dominated for large patches.

Versatile Arthur Masuaku said: “We played really well, everyone is frustrated about this game and I don’t even know how we lost this game. We should have won.

“I think everyone is happy about the performance and we need to take the positives and move onto the next one.”

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Romelu Lukaku calls for more arrogance from Man United at Camp Nou

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Romelu Lukaku

Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku has called his team to show more arrogance towards Barcelona in the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The Red Devils are goal down and are in need of an inspirational performance to reach the semis of the Champions League.

Lukaku believes his team did not show the arrogance and confidence in the early minutes at Old Trafford and they can’t afford to do the same in the return leg.

“Taking our chances and not conceding a goal, and play with more heart and b****cks.

“We have to believe and have the desire and more quality. Be better on the ball and then you never know what can happen in football.

“I don’t think we played with the same arrogance and confidence on the ball [early on]. Second half we tried and the first 20 minutes of the second half we were there. It’s something we have to do for the whole 90 minutes over there and not concede a goal and score early,” he said according to Goal.

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