Manchester United will clash against Spanish La Liga side Valencia in their final Group H encounter of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.
Manchester United will travel to Spain this week, as they gear up to face off against Valencia in a dead rubber in the UEFA Champions League at the Mestalla on Wednesday night.
The Red Devils have qualified to the knockout stages of the competition, following their last-gasp 1-0 win over BSC Young Boys last month. Since then, Jose Mourinho’s side drew two matches against Southampton and Arsenal, before beating Fulham 4-1 this past weekend.
Currently occupying the second spot in Group H standings, Manchester United have an outside chance of topping the group, should they emerge victorious on Wednesday night and Juventus fail to defeat BSC Young Boys in the other Group H match.
Valencia, on the other hand, are set to enter the round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League, with a third-place finish in the group confirmed. Los Che were beaten 1-0 by Juventus last time they were in action in Europe, following which they have won, lost and drawn a game each, with their latest match ending in a 1-1 draw against Sevilla.
Marcelino’s men have underwhelmed on the continental stages so far, having picked up just one victory in five games. They will be hoping to sign off on their Champions League campaign with a victory against the Premier League giants.
Team News & Tactics
Former Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista is likely to be unavailable for the home team, after picking up an injury in the weekend draw against Sevilla. Jeison Murillo and Kevin Gameiro are also sidelined with injury issues, while left-back Jose Gaya will serve out his one-match suspension.
Valencia will set out in a 4-4-2 formation on Wednesday night, with Neto set to start between the sticks. Cristiano Piccini, who wasn’t involved at the weekend, should come back into the team at right-back, while 21-year-old Toni Lato is set to start on the left in place of the suspended Gaya.
Ezequiel Garay should continue at the heart of the defence and is likely to be partnered by Moukhtar Diakhaby, who scored the late equaliser for Los Che against Sevilla.
Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes are guaranteed starters on the right and left flanks respectively for Marcelino’s side. Manning the centre of the park for the home team should be seasoned campaigner Dani Parejo, alongside Frenchman Geoffrey Kondogbia, meaning former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin drops out.
Upfront, the manager might opt to give main striker Rodrigo a breather and instead choose to go in with on-loan Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi, alongside the talented Santi Mina.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Piccini, Garay, Diakhaby, Lato; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Guedes; Mina, Batshuayi
Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Chris Smalling, Diogo Dalot, David de Gea, Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Darmian and Victor Lindelof have all been left behind in Manchester by Mourinho. Academy products James Garner and Mason Greenwood have been included in the travelling party by the Portuguese, as he looks to rotate his troops for the dead rubber.
With de Gea being rested, Sergio Romero is set to make a rare appearance in goal for Manchester United on Wednesday night.
Club captain Antonio Valencia should feature from the get-go at right-back, while Marcos Rojo is set to get the nod on the left side, with Ashley Young likely to be held back keeping in mind the Liverpool game at the weekend. With Smalling recuperating from an injury, Eric Bailly is set to start in defence, alongside Phil Jones, who had a solid outing against Fulham.
Paul Pogba is set to start in the middle of the park, the manager had already confirmed at the weekend. He is likely to be partnered by academy graduate Andreas Pereira, who spent a season on loan at Valencia. The third midfield slot could be taken up by summer signing Fred, with Scott McTominay and James Garner likely to make appearances from the bench.
Juan Mata should start against his former club on the right-side, after his brilliant showing at the weekend. Jesse Lingard is another who is likely to hold on to his place in team, moving to the left flank, with Marcus Rashford set to be given time on the bench. Spearheading the attack for the Red Devils will be Romelu Lukaku.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Rojo; Fred, Pereira, Pogba; Mata, Lukaku, Lingard
- Valencia and Manchester United are meeting for the eighth time in the Champions League – with the English club never losing to Los Che (winning twice and drawing five).
- If United fail to score at the Mestalla, it will be the first time since 2008-09 against Villarreal that they have failed to score both home and away against a group stage opponent.
- Valencia have failed to score in six of their past eight games in the Champions League.
- If Manchester United win on Wednesday, it will be the first time since 2010-11 that they have won all three of their away games in the group stages.
- Valencia have lost four of their past six Champions League home games, winning the other two, having not lost any of their previous nine games before this run.
Player to Watch
Having been dropped for Manchester United’s last two Premier League encounters against Arsenal and Fulham, the club-record signing is set to return to the starting XI on Wednesday night. And he will have a lot to prove when he takes the field at the Mestalla, if he is to earn his place back in Mourinho’s team, considering how good the Red Devils looked without him in the lineup.
Pogba has scored five times and set up four more goals this season in 19 appearances and has been directly involved in 60% of Manchester United’s away goals in the Champions League this season, with two goals and one assist in their five goals. Yet, the element of consistency is still missing from his game.
With the big game against Liverpool coming up, Wednesday night’s fixture will be a sort of an audition for the World Cup winner to convince Mourinho that he should feature against the Reds come Sunday.
Valencia 1-1 Manchester United
Manchester United are in good spirits following their weekend triumph against Fulham. However, with the number of changes that are likely to be made by Jose, they might not be able to reproduce the same kind of performance at the Mestalla.
Valencia, on the other hand, have been struggling to find their feet both in La Liga and in Europe. Marcelino’s side have won just one of their last four matches in all competitions and have picked up three points from a game just once in Europe this term.
The past six competitive meetings between the sides have seen just five goals scored, with the reverse fixture at Old Trafford earlier this season ending in a drab goalless stalemate. Wednesday’s encounter in Spain is likely to follow suit, and we at The Hard Tackle predict the game to end in a 1-1 draw.