A big night awaits football aficionados as Manchester United will take on Arsenal in a match that is crucial to the Champions League dreams of both teams.
Arsenal and Manchester United are teams that have both struggled to maintain a consistent winning form this season, and their encounter will be a crucial match since it will decide their fate as far as Champions League qualification is concerned. Manchester United still have a chance to qualify through the Europa League, but for Arsenal, this match will be do-or-die.
The pressure on Arsene Wenger diffused a little after his experimentation with the backline led to surprising wins, but another defeat to a rival club like United coming after a devastating 2-0 loss at Tottenham, may lead to an upsurge of anger among the fans yet again.
Although the Gunners’ defeat against Spurs did not destroy their chances of a top-four finish, they will play United as they sit nine points behind Liverpool, which is currently in the fourth spot, with two games in hand.
However, failure to beat a United side struggling with injuries and player rotation ahead of their second leg semi-final against Celta Vigo will most definitely bring an end to Arsenal’s two-decade-long record of Champions League qualification. Another piece of good news for the United fans will be the fact that Wenger has failed to one-up Mourinho in the Premier League so far, and the Portuguese manager will look to continue the same.
Team News and Tactics
Granit Xhaka may have returned to training, but he still faces a late fitness test due to an injury he picked up against Tottenham last weekend, and will be doubtful for this match.
David Ospina is said to be fit despite complaining about a back injury. Shkodran Mustafi has returned to full training after a thigh injury, and Lucas Perez is also likely to be fit for this game.
As far as tactics are concerned, Arsene Wenger needs to engage a more attacking gameplay since a draw will not benefit him in any sense. There’s also the added pressure of never being able to one-up Mourinho in the Premier League. Defensively, Wenger has been experimenting and it did pay off in certain matches, but it has been a lukewarm affair so far.
Seeing how chants of ‘Wenger Out’ are not dying anytime soon, Arsenal needs to win at all costs, especially since they need to fight for a Champions League spot.
Whether Wenger will play with a back three or revert to his older playing style can tell a lot about the kind of mindset the manager is in. His experimentation paid off, but it failed to do anything in their recent few matches, and knowing the magnitude of this game, he would stick to what he feels is working best for the team.
Predicted line-up: Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs; Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud
Jose Mourinho will rest several Manchester United players against Arsenal, owing to a Celta Vigo semi-final second leg clash which awaits them.
Marcus Rashford is likely to be one of them after limping off in the first leg semi-final against Celta de Vigo, and so could Ashley Young after he left the field shortly due to a hamstring complaint.
United’s Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is banned from domestic games, and this comes at a rather bad time for Mourinho. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Tim Fosu-Mensah will all remain sidelined.
Jose Mourinho’s prioritising skills will be tested in this match as he needs to balance out his players such that a positive result can be obtained from this game, as well as the upcoming semi-final clash against Celta de Vigo. Bringing out players like Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Michael Carrick can be beneficial given their experience and knowledge of Wenger’s tricks.
The defence will have to be extra strong today, considering how Arsenal likes to engage in sudden spurts of attack. United have been performing pretty well defensively, and that will end up being a key factor in the ultimate result of this match. Also, if they score the first goal, the Red Devils will have an advantage since they can restrict Arsenal after that point and ensure they maintain possession to build frustration upon Wenger and his men.
Predicted line-up: De Gea; Valencia, Tuanzebe, Blind, Young; Carrick, Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Martial
- Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over United at the Emirates last season is their only win in 11 Premier League games against them (D4 L6).
- United haven’t lost consecutive away Premier League games against Arsenal since November 2001.
- Alexis Sanchez is two goals away from scoring his 50th Premier League goal for Arsenal, becoming the 8th player to do this for the Gunners.
- Wayne Rooney has scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal than any other player in Premier League history (11).
- Sanchez needs just one goal to register his best-ever return from a single campaign in Europe’s big five leagues.
Player to watch out for: Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain
Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain has been delivering several stunning performances off-late, and hence it came as no surprise when he was named April’s Vitality Player of the Month.
Even Wenger has been impressed by the way he’s been playing recently, even more so since he was asked to move to the right-back position, which is not his usual style. Although Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contract is due to expire at the end of next season, Arsenal should look to retain the England international as he has been really consistent for them.
After a bit of an initial struggle, Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to have found the right position for him, and he has truly made it his own. He has put up convincing and positive performances, and the Gunners will hope he maintains the same form against Manchester United as well. A good game against United will also boost his confidence and give him the strength to play better as time goes by.
The match will be exciting, no doubt, but given how things are right now, it won’t be surprising if Manchester United pushes for a draw. They have been unbeaten for 25 games solely based on their penchant for ending games in a tie, or playing it safe.
Arsenal cannot afford to take a chance like that and will have to produce a strong performance to outplay Manchester United. They will have the home advantage at the Emirates stadium though, and it will all come down to who breaks first.
The Gunners will understand the importance of this match and will fight hard against a draw. United, on the other hand, will have a relatively fresh squad looking to draw in blood. Bearing all this in mind, the match is likely to end in a 1-0 victory for Manchester United.