Manchester United will travel to Spain, to face Sevilla in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie
Manchester United will resume their UEFA Champions League campaign as they take on Spanish La Liga side Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Wednesday night.
Jose Mourinho’s side progressed to the round of 16 stages topping Group A, that also consisted Basel, CSKA Moscow and Benfica, winning five out of six games. And the Portuguese tactician will be looking for his side to carry the good form from the group stages into the upcoming rounds and take a step in the direction of progression with a positive result in Spain. They go into the game on good form, having beaten Huddersfield Town 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.
Sevilla, on the other hand, made it out of Group E in the second position, drawing twice against Liverpool and losing just once. Having sacked then manager Eduardo Berizzo owing to poor results, things have been looking up for the Spanish outfit under new boss Vincenzo Montella. They come into the game on the back of three straight wins in all competitions, after beating Las Palmas 2-1 away from home on Saturday.
Team News and Tactics
Montella will be able to call back on the services of playmaker Ever Banega after he returned from a hamstring injury, while former Manchester City wide man Nolito is also likely to return, along with fellow forward Joaquin Correa and defender Simon Kjaer. Right-back Sebastien Corchia though, is likely to miss out with a groin injury.
In goal, Spanish international Sergio Rico is expected to start and will need to be at his best to keep out this United attack. He will need considerable help from the back four of Gabriel Mercado, Simon Kjaer, Clement Lenglet and Sergio Escudero. The full-backs, Mercado and Escudero, will also need to provide width going forward and support their team in attack.
The two-man pivot in the middle of the park is likely to comprise of Frenchman Steven N’Zonzi and Guido Pizarro. They will be tasked with snuffing out United from building attacks, while N’Zonzi can also be a threat with his powerful surging runs from the deep midfield areas.
Former Manchester City winger Jesus Navas will start on the right wing and look to make a serious impact against United, while Pablo Sarabia is likely to occupy the left-flank, with Franco Vazquez sandwiched between them as the No.10.
Leading the line for the Spanish outfit will be striker Wissam Ben Yedder. The 27-year old has been in deadly form in the Champions League, scoring six in six games in the group stages and will look to cause problems to the United defence.
Probable Starting XI: Rico; Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero; N’Zonzi, Pizarro; Navas, Vazquez, Sarabia; Ben Yedder;
United have been boosted heavily by the return of the quartet of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford, all of whom missed out of the FA Cup win over Huddersfield. Antonio Valencia and David De Gea, who were also not involved in the weekend win will return to the starting XI as well. Eric Bailly returned to action in the final minutes of the win over the Terriers and could be in line for a start.
However, they will have to make do without the services of defenders Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and midfielder Marouane Fellaini for the game.
De Gea will be restored in goal for the big game in place of Sergio Romero, while Valencia will resume duties as the right-back, with Ashley Young expected to start at left-back. Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling should partner up in the heart of the defence. United haven’t looked all that convincing at the back recently, but will need to be at the top of their game against Sevilla.
In the middle of the park, Serbian giant Nemanja Matic will start in the deepest position with Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba expected to complete the midfield trio. Much has been made of Pogba’s form of late and it will be important for the player and the manager that the Frenchman performs to the level of expectations on Wednesday.
Anthony Martial, who did not start against Huddersfield, should return to the starting XI on the right-flank with January signing Alexis Sanchez expected to continue on the left. Through the middle, it will be star striker Romelu Lukaku, who was on song in the weekend win and will be hoping to carry that form into the midweek clash.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; Lingard, Matic, Pogba; Martial, Lukaku, Alexis;
- Sevilla have never kept a clean sheet in the Champions League knockout stages (6 games) but they have also won two of their three home games (L1).
- Manchester United have not scored more than one goal in each of their last 14 Champions League encounters against Spanish opposition and have managed just seven goals in total.
- Wissam Ben Yedder has scored 50% of Sevilla’s goals in the group stages of the Champions League this season (6 out of 12).
- Manchester United won five of their six group games this term, losing only once against FC Basel. This is their highest tally in the Champions League since the 2007/08 season.
Player to watch
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Always in the limelight, Manchester United’s midfield maverick Paul Pogba has been mired by criticisms of late for the decline in his performances and there have been reports of growing unrest between the player and the manager, Mourinho. The Portuguese was quick to quash those rumours off, but Pogba will once again be under the microscope on the trip to Sevilla.
Having missed out on the weekend win due to illness, the Frenchman will be hoping to put all the negativity surrounding him aside and prove his worth with a solid performance in the midfield for the Mancunians.
Sevilla 1-1 Manchester United
United will be boosted by the return of a number of big players for the game and if they hit top gear, they can be unstoppable. However, the squad is yet to gel properly since the arrival of Alexis and that might once again hamper them against Sevilla, who have made the Sanchez Pizjuan a bit of a fortress this term, having lost just once at home.
So, here at the Hard Tackle, we predict a 1-1 draw with the fortunes likely to be decided in the second leg at the Old Trafford next month.