Manchester United will be looking to take a step towards the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals when they take on Austrian side LASK in the Round of 16 first leg.
The Round of 16 stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League kicks off this Thursday. And Premier League heavyweights Manchester United will travel to Austria to face off against LASK at an empty Linzer Stadion.
Having qualified to the knockout phase as group winners, Manchester United dispatched Belgian outfit Club Brugge in the Round of 32 stages comfortably, with an aggregate scoreline of 6-1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are currently on a ten-game unbeaten in all competitions, most recently beating local rivals Manchester City 2-0 in the league and will be hoping to carry that momentum forward on Thursday.
LASK have been the surprise package in this season’s Europa League. The Austrian Bundesliga leaders finished top of Group D that also comprised of Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven and Rosenborg and then eliminated AZ Alkmaar (3-1 on aggregate) in the Round of 32. The Black-Whites have lost just once in their last eleven games in all competitions and will be looking to pull off a major upset against United.
The match will be played behind closed doors on Thursday night due to the spreading threat of Coronavirus across Europe. And we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams ahead of the clash;
Team News & Tactics
The Austrian league leaders will be without first-choice defenders Philipp Wiesinger and Petar Filipovic, both of whom are suspended for the contest. LASK will also have to make do without the services of Marvin Potzmann and Husein Balic due to injuries. Thomas Goiginger is also set to miss out after getting injured in LASK’s previous match against Mattersburg.
Manager Valerien Ismael has stuck by a three-man defensive system this season and is unlikely to tinker with the setup for Manchester United’s visit. Alexander Schlager will man the goal for LASK and will be shielded by the backline comprising of captain Gernot Trauner, Christian Ramsebner and Markus Wostry. Reinhold Ranftl and Rene Renner ought to be the two wing-backs.
Seasoned campaigner James Holland will be tasked with holding the fort in midfield and look to keep a lid on Bruno Fernandes’ outfput from the No. 10 role for Manchester United. Partnering him in the middle of the park should once again be Peter Michorl.
With Goiginger out injured, Dominik Frieser should return to the starting XI on the right flank while Samuel Tetteh should hold on to his place on the left. Marko Raguz has more goals than Klauss in Europe this term and should be preferred in the centre-forward role.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Schlager; Trauner, Ramsebner, Wostry; Ranftl, Holland, Michorl, Renner; Frieser, Raguz, Tetteh
Anthony Martial has been ruled out after sustaining an injury at the weekend. Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot did not train on Wednesday and are believed to have not travelled to Austria, along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Lee Grant, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford remains sidelined for the 20-time English champions.
Solskjaer is likely to make a few changes to the team that defeated Manchester City, while there is a good chance that Manchester United will switch to 4-2-3-1 formation after having set up with a three-man backline at the weekend.
In goal, Sergio Romero ought to return to the side, as is customary for the Europa League clashes, while Dalot and n Wan-Bissaka’s absence could mean Axel Tuanzebe should feature at right-back, having recently returned from injury. Brandon Williams could get the nod on the left, allowing Luke Shaw some well-deserved rest.
Eric Bailly has been impressed at every opportunity he has got since returning from injury and should start on Thursday. Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, though, is in line for a rest, leaving Victor Lindelof to occupy the second centre-back slot although the fit-again Phil Jones is also an option.
Scott McTominay should start in midfield after making a late substitute appearance at the weekend. Nemanja Matic is likely to keep his place alongside the Scotsman, with Fred likely to be given a breather. Bruno Fernandes though, should continue in the No. 10 role for Manchester United.
Juan Mata has looked impressive in recent games and should feature from the get-go against LASK on Thursday, starting on the left flank. Mason Greenwood is likely to get the nod on the right, with Odion Ighalo, who scored a double in his last start against Derby County, spearheading the Manchester United attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Tuanzebe, Bailly, Lindelof, Williams; McTominay, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Mata; Ighalo
- This will be the first ever competitive meeting between LASK and Manchester United, while it’ll also be LASK’s first encounter with an English team.
- Manchester United have yet to lose versus an Austrian team in European competition (W7 D1), winning each of the last six in a row. In fact, only against teams from Ukraine (W6 D2) have the Red Devils played as many games against sides from a single nation without ever losing than they have versus Austrian teams.
- LASK are unbeaten in their last six matches in the Europa League (W4 D2), their longest ever unbeaten run in all European competition (including qualifiers).
- Manchester United have lost just one of their last 19 matches in the Europa League (W13 D5), also winning seven and drawing four of their 11 knockout stage games in this run, including the 2016-17 final vs Ajax.
- No team has had more different goalscorers (excluding own-goals) in the Europa League this season than Manchester United (10).
Player to Watch
There is no denying the impact that Bruno Fernandes has made since arriving at Manchester United in the January transfer window. The Portuguese international has added that creative spark that was missing within Solskjaer’s side and has scored and assisted three goals apiece already in eight appearances, including the ingenious free-kick assist for Anthony Martial in the derby.
Fernandes has already faced LASK during the group stages when he was with Sporting and scored and assisted a goal each. Hence, his knowledge of the opponent, coupled with the X-Factor that he brings to the table, will make the 25-year-old a pivotal presence for Manchester United on Thursday.
LASK 0-1 Manchester United
LASK are in good nick heading into the fixture on Thursday, having lost just one of their last eleven games. They did very well against AZ Alkmaar in the previous round and will be in confident mood ahead of Manchester United’s visit. The same goes for the Red Devils as well, who are on a ten-game unbeaten run in all competitions including a morale-boosting derby triumph at the weekend.
But, given Manchester United’s recent defensive record of eight clean sheets in ten matches with just two goals conceded, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co., to come out on top in Austria with a narrow win on the cards.