Manchester United will be aiming to go to the top of Group L of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League when they take on leaders Partizan Belgrade on Thursday.
Manchester United will be searching for their second victory of their UEFA Europa League campaign when they travel to the Partizan Stadium to take on Serbian heavyweights Partizan Belgrade for a Group L encounter.
Partizan occupy the top spot in the group, having collected four points from their two matches so far. Having drawn their opening game against AZ Alkmaar, the hosts defeated Astana 2-1 and will be aiming to hold on to their position with another positive result on Thursday. The Steamroller did lose their last clash against Mladost Lucani and will want to bounce back with a win in Europe.
Manchester United are second in Group L, level on points with Partizan, but behind on goals scored metric. They too have defeated Astana, but drew against AZ Alkmaar in their second match in Europe. The Red Devils put in an improved performance in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at the weekend, but questions remain over their away form, which manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be keen on addressing.
Ahead of this contest between the top two of Group L in Belgrade, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Manager Savo Milosevic will be without the services of former Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic for the big game on Thursday, while there are doubts over the involvement of Seydouba Soumah. There are likely to be a few changes to the side that started against Mladost Lucani.
Starting from goal, 36-year-old captain Vladimir Stojkovic is expected to return in goal, replacing Nemanja Stevanovic. The manager is unlikely to tinker with his backline on Thursday, with Nemanja Miletic and Slobodan Urosevic starting as the full-backs, while Bojan Ostojic and Strahinja Pavlovic should pair up at the heart of the defence.
Aleksandar Scekic and Sasa Zdjelar should take up the two pivot positions in the middle of the park and look to break up play and recycle possession effectively. The creative responsibility should fall upon the shoulders of Bibras Natkho, who had scored twice in the draw against AZ starting as the No. 10 for Partizan.
Former Manchester United player Zoran Tosic should take up the right wing slot and will be keen to make a strong impression against the Premier League giants. On the opposite flank, former Arsenal winger Takuma Asano is expected to get the nod. On-loan Nigerian forward Umar Sadiq should spearhead the attack for Partizan against Manchester United.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Stojkovic; Miletic, Ostojic, Pavlovic, Urosevic; Scekic, Zdjelar; Tosic, Natkho, Asano; Sadiq
Injury issues continue to pose a problem for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who will make the trip to Serbia without a host of regulars. Paul Pogba remains sidelined with an ankle injury, while Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are all out as well.
Axel Tuanzebe will miss out again after picking up a hip injury prior to the Liverpool encounter, David de Gea is set to be rested along with captain Ashley Young. Jesse Lingard is back in the reckoning, though, handing United a boost, while youngsters Matej Kovar, Brandon Williams, James Garner and Ethan Laird are all included in the traveling party.
There will be changes to the team that started on Sunday, with Solskjaer expected to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation after utilizing a three-man backline against Liverpool. Sergio Romero should get the nod in goal in place of de Gea, while Williams is likely to start at left-back, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka being the right-back.
Victor Lindelof could be given a breather, with Harry Maguire and Marcos Rojo set to form the central defensive partnership for Manchester United. With no Matic and Pogba in the squad, Solskjaer is likely to stick with the midfield pivot of Fred and Scott McTominay, while Juan Mata is expected to get the nod as the No. 10.
Youngster Mason Greenwood should come into the team on the right flank, while Daniel James is expected to continue on the opposite side. Anthony Martial, who made his return from injury at the weekend, is likely to lead the line for Manchester United, with Marcus Rashford on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Rojo, Williams; Fred, McTominay; Greenwood, Mata, James; Martial
- The only previous occasion Partizan Belgrade and Manchester United have met was in the 1965-66 European Cup semi-finals. Partizan won the home leg 2-0 before losing 0-1 away, on their way to the finals of the competition.
- This is Manchester United’s first meeting with Serbian opposition (including when part of Yugoslavia) since the 1991 European Super Cup, in which they beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0.
- Partizan are unbeaten in 11 home games in European competition (W8 D3).
- Manchester United remain unbeaten in 13 Europa League matches since defeat away to Fenerbahce in November 2016 (W9 D4) – they have kept nine clean sheets in this run, never conceding more than once in a game.
- Manchester United could fail to score in three consecutive away matches in major European competitions for the first time since a run of five matches ending in November 2005.
Player to Watch
Having been reinstated into his preferred centre-forward role at the start of the 2019-20 campaign, Martial kicked off the season in decent form. The 23-year-old scored two goals and assisted one more in his first three appearances of the season, before a thigh injury ruled him out of action for almost eight weeks.
Martial marked his return from injury against Liverpool this past weekend. The Frenchman did not get a lot of time to make an impact against the Reds, but in line for a starting berth against Partizan, he will be intent on getting amongst the goals as Manchester United seek to end their four-game winless streak.
Partizan Belgrade 1-1 Manchester United
Partizan Belgrade have been near unbeatable at home this season, having lost just one of their nine matches in their own backyard so far, letting in just seven goals. Manchester United, on the other hand, haven’t won on the road in their last 11 games and have failed to score in the last three such encounters.
Goals and creativity have been major issues for Manchester United and with Partizan expected to sit deep, their attacking problems are likely to be laid bare once again on Thursday night. We at The Hard Tackle are expecting this one to end in a 1-1 draw at the Partizan Stadium.