Ahead of Barcelona’s UEFA Europa League knockout playoff first leg with Manchester United on Thursday (February 16), Blaugrana midfielder Raphinha reckons it’s a clash of two of the best teams in the world.

Manchester United are in the Europa League this season, while Barcelona dropped knocked down to the competition after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group. They now face each other for the first time in the second tier of the European cup competition.

Ahead of the midweek clash, Raphinha said that both teams have gone through a tough period but are now back at their best. He said:

“I think they are two of the best teams in the world. Barca had a bad time in recent seasons and Manchester did too. All clubs go through difficult times, but you have to change your mind to be the best again.”

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes hails Barcelona’s Raphinha

Bruno Fernandes played with Raphinha at Sporting Lisbon for a season before the Brazilian moved to Rennes. The Portuguese star wanted to work with the winger again and backed him to join Manchester United.

Fernandes said last year:

“The chemistry between me and him was really good. I didn’t play with him for a long time at Sporting, but I felt he was a teammate who would give everything for me.”

Raphinha also spoke about Fernandes in his Players Tribune article:

“Bruno has helped me so much, man. In Portugal, we would talk a lot and go out for meals. When I went to Rennes, he advised me. The guy is so clever. When I was on the plane to Leeds, he texted me, saying my style would fit the league. He was right again.”

He added:

“Just being around him is an inspiration because of the way he behaves. At the top level, I have never seen anyone work as hard as him. You know it will be very difficult to do what he does, but if you try long enough and listen to what he says, you might get close.”

Barcelona are 11 points clear of second-placed Real Madrid in La Liga, while third-placed United are five points off leaders Arsenal.