Manchester United will take on Celta Vigo for the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, and United will be looking to get a good early lead.

Manchester United’s schedule gets all the more hectic as they are all set to travel to Celta Vigo for their semi-final tie. Jose Mourinho did mention a couple of times that the Europa League will be their top priority, and rightfully so, since securing a win here seems more doable than trying to get a top-four spot in the Premier League.

Whoever wins this tie will have to play their final match at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on 24th May. Celta will travel to Old Trafford a week later to play their second leg, which may not be the best news for Manchester United.

Mourinho’s men have had a dreadful home record this season and somehow ended up drawing matches they should’ve easily won otherwise.

The second leg will leave no scope for a draw, and United fans will be hoping that their team salvages a victory when the Spanish club travels to their seemingly ill-fated home ground.

Team news and tactics

Manchester United

Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw limped off during their game against Swansea City, which seemed rather frustrating given the frequency of injuries in the squad at a crucial time like this. However, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata are likely to return for the Red Devils, which will be an added boost.

One major concern for United seems to be the lack of good players in central defence. Also, the fact that Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are recovering from injuries, does not help Mourinho either. His choice of defenders are rather limited, and there’s only so much he can do.

Is Michael Carrick struggling to cope with playing at central defence? (Photo courtesy - David Rogers/Getty Images)

Is Michael Carrick struggling to cope with playing at central defence? (Photo courtesy – David Rogers/Getty Images)

Playing Michael carrick in that area isn’t really helping either since that is not his natural position, and his pace has slowed down. He looks easily exposed against a quick forward line.

Statistically speaking, the Old Trafford side are on an unbeaten 25-game run in the Premier League, out of which most were draws. At home, they’ve ended about 10 games in a draw, and now qualifying to the top four seems like an uphill task. That makes the Europa League even more important for Mourinho and his team.

Predicted line-up: Manchester United – De Gea, Valencia, Blind, Carrick, Darmian; Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Mkhitaryan, Mata; Rashford

Celta Vigo

The Spanish club are known for their attacking style of football, and they play a very narrow 4-3-3 formation with John Guidetti as their main man. Guidetti, being a former Manchester City player, is likely to take on this match with a fresh zeal.

Iago Aspas has been in good form for Celta Vigo and will be looking to continue the same against Manchester United. (Photo Courtesy - EPA/JOSE MANUEL VIDAL)

Iago Aspas has been in good form for Celta Vigo and will be looking to continue the same against Manchester United. (Photo Courtesy – EPA/JOSE MANUEL VIDAL)

Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo’s winger, has 24 goals this season in 44 appearances – a rather impressive record when you think about the club’s size and stature.

Goalkeeper Ruben Blanco picked up an injury at the beginning of last month and he could be a doubt. Defender Carles Planas and centre-forward Giuseppe Rossi won’t feature as they are out with long-term injuries.

Celta’s manager rested quite a number of their players when they lost 3-0 to Athletic Bilbao last weekend, most probably to have a rejuvenated side against Manchester United. The paradox about Celta de Vigo is that they’ve been doing well in Europe, but their league form has taken a massive hit due to that.

They’ve lost their last three La Liga fixtures and currently sit 11th in the table. Maybe in La Liga, that’s what’s expected of them, but the way they’ve been playing in Europe makes it evident that they are capable of much more.

Predicted line-up: Celta Vigo – Álvarez; Mallo, Cabral, Fontas, Jonny; Hernández, Radoja, Wass; Aspas, Guidetti, Sisto

Key Stats

  • Celta Vigo have lost their last three matches since coming through their quarter-final tie against Genk.
  • Manchester United, on the other hand, are on a 25-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.
  • Only Hugo Lloris has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than David De Gea and United will need him on top form on Thursday evening.
  • United have also won six of their last eight Europa League clashes – remaining unbeaten in four games away from home.
  • Celta Vigo scored five goals in their last two European home games.

Player to watch out for – Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford will have a major opportunity at hand to cement his position as a key player. (Picture Courtesy - OLI SCARFF/ AFP/Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford will have a major opportunity at hand to cement his position as a key player. (Picture Courtesy – OLI SCARFF/ AFP/Getty Images)

The young player has exceeded all expectations and is in fiery form for Manchester United.

Ever since Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered an injury, it was required of Rashford to step up to the responsibility, and step up he did! It was because of his late winner that United won against Anderlecht in the previous round of the Europa League, and he’s been brilliant in the games that followed.

If he manages to maintain his form and pick up a goal or two against Celta Vigo, he will undoubtedly emerge as one of the key players for the Red Devils.

Prediction

On paper, Manchester united are a far more superior club to Celta vigo, and should win this game with ease, even with their injury problems.

In reality though, United have struggled to be convincing enough on several occasions. to They even lost away to Fenerbahce and Feyenoord in the group stage and drew 1-1 with Anderlecht in the last round. The fact that this is only the first leg, might mean that United will push for a – yep, you guessed it – draw.

This may be the biggest game ever in the Spanish club’s history, but regardless United should not get too complacent. The most likely outcome is a 1-1 draw.

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