Jules Kounde does not feel lucky to be facing Manchester United in the Europa League after Erik ten Hag fumed that the Barcelona defender should have been sent off and banned for the return leg.
Last week’s meeting of these European heavyweights outside the flagship competition lived up to the billing, with a chaotic clash in Catalunya ending in a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp.
It was an impressive performance but Ten Hag was annoyed about his side’s inability to turn dominance into a win and the officials’ inaction for a poor challenge on star man Marcus Rashford.
Shortly after scoring an own goal to put the Red Devils 2-1 up, Kounde escaped a red card for a challenge on Rashford – something the Dutchman said was “definitely” a second off.
The United boss was booked for displaying his anger at a decision that he believes has “a big influence not only on this game but on this round”.
When those comments were put to Kounde on the eve of Thursday’s second leg at Old Trafford, the France international said: “I think it was 50-50. There is contact but I think it’s very light.
“I think it’s very light and the referee decided to not give me a red card, so I don’t feel lucky (to be here and not be suspended). I feel it’s part of the decision of the referee.
“It’s true that I think I could have been sent off because it was 50-50 but the referee made the decision and obviously I’m very happy.”
Barca are unbeaten in their last five meetings against United, whose last five European campaigns ended in defeat to Spanish clubs.
Kounde was part of the Sevilla side that beat them in the Europa League semi-finals in Cologne in 2020 and believes the Red Devils have developed markedly since then.
“It’s a very different team,” he said. “I think they improved a lot.
“They have a very organised team, are very strong in the duels and obviously they have heavy power in the front line.
Lewandowski warming up for warmups. pic.twitter.com/bwVhh6XjlV
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 22, 2023
“So, yeah, it’s a very different team from the team I played in Sevilla. They are doing a great job also in the league.
“It’s a very competitive team and it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a great battle.”
Barca will be without Pedri, Gavi and Ousmane Dembele against United, but fit-again Sergio Busquets is available on Thursday.
The latter was part of the team that beat United in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals alongside current head coach Xavi, who would love to be playing at Old Trafford.
“I always say that the pressure right now is for me,” the Spain great said. “It’s for me. You should enjoy it. I should have the pressure.
“Tomorrow you should enjoy the stage. I would give anything to play in this type of game tomorrow with this atmosphere at Old Trafford.
“A knockout game in Europe should motivate any player. Yep, they need to control their emotions, that’s important – that’s a basic thing for us.”