Sergio Aguero has tipped his former club Barcelona to beat Manchester United on Thursday night, saying that they are now an established team under head coach Xavi.

Manchester City legend Aguero joined Barca in 2021, just months before he retired from a heart problem which was uncovered during his early months in Catalunya. He played under Ronald Koeman before the Dutchman departed to make way for Xavi in November 2021, with the Argentine striker never getting the chance to play for the new coach before he announced his retirement.

In the 15 months Xavi has spent in charge of Barca, they have slowly transformed themselves into a new team with their status as league leaders in La Liga a testament to the work done. However, Thursday night’s match will be a reminder that there is still work to be done, with Barca having been demoted from the Champions League to the second tier of European competition after finishing third in the group stage behind Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

City’s record goalscorer will be a keen spectator on Thursday and ahead of the match, he spoke in his blog for Stake, underlining his appraisal of the progress of Barca but also praising United’s return to the conversation in terms of Europe’s elite clubs.

He said: “From what they are showing in La Liga, Barcelona managed to establish itself as a team and have a very consistent game. They managed to close their goal, they concede very little, and they have unbalancing players up front.

“United have managed to get back into consideration and seems to have left behind the irregularity of the recent past. Another clash worth seeing, even, but I think that Barca, and I hope it will be like that, will be the one that prevails.”

With the match being played at an earlier stage than either club will have hoped, it is likely to be a fascinating encounter with both in the hunt for a knockout experience ahead of a hoped-for return for both to the latter stages of the Champions League next season.

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