The Europa League returns as Manchester United get ready to host LASK at the Old Trafford in the second leg of the Round of 16.
The Europa League will be the first of the European cup competitions to return to action hosting several mouth-watering ties such as Inter Milan vs Getafe, Sevilla vs Roma, Bayer Leverkusen vs Rangers among others. Manchester United will be one of the teams taking the stage and are in a considerably better position than most.
They will be hosting Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub, better known as LASK, at Old Trafford for the second leg of the Round of 16. The Red Devils boast of a 5-0 advantage from their first leg courtesy of a goal each from Odion Ighalo, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira.
The two clubs were lucky to complete the first of their two games before football came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. For other clubs, who were not able to go ahead with the first leg, this now means that their fixture will be played in just a single tie at a neutral location.
LASK defeated AZ Alkmaar 3-1 over two legs in the Round of 32, thanks to three goals from Marko Raguz – one away and then two at home. United, on the other hand, were under much less pressure as they faced off against Club Brugge. After the first leg ended 1-1, the Belgian outfit were hit for five unanswered goals in Manchester. Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Scott McTominay and Ighalo were on the scoresheet that day for United.
Tactics & Team News
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to tend to three injuries ahead of this fixture. Luke Shaw picked up an injury against Southampton in mid-July, and has not seen game time since. Axel Tuanzebe, and Phil Jones both suffered from long-term injuries and will be out for this game as well.
Thanks to their substantial lead, the Norweigian manager can rest his first-team players and give minutes to the second string on Wednedsday. David de Gea will be replaced by Sergio Romero, who was surprisingly benched for their game against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals – a decision that probably cost them the game.
A back-four is expected to screen the Argentine, with Diogo Dalot as the right-back and Brandon Williams on the left. Timothy Fosu-Mensah ought to partner Eric Bailly in the heart of the defence. It might be a good day to give playing time to youth players such as Ethan Laird or Teden Mengi.
Scott McTominay and Fred are expected to occupy the positions in the midfield double pivot, while Jesse Lingard starts as the attacking midfielder in what will most probably be a 4-2-3-1. We could also see James Garner in the midfield, ahead of Scott McTominay.
The attack will feature Juan Mata on the right-wing, aided by Daniel James on the left. Odion Ighalo will lead the line as he so often has in the Europa League. However, a shuffle in the frontline could see Lingard on the right with Andreas Pereira through the centre.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Dalot, Bailly, Fosu-Mensah, Williams; McTominay, Fred; Mata, Lingard, James; Ighalo
LASK will arrive at Old Trafford with a nearly fully-fit squad. The only two injuries that gaffer Dominik Thalhammer will have to cater to are winger Thomas Goiginger and left-back Marvin Potzmann.
They will take on the pitch in the shape of a 3-4-3 as they did during the first leg. Alexander Schlager will hold the fort between the sticks for the Austrian outfit. He will be shielded by a 3-man defence featuring Gernot Trauner on the left, Andres Andrade on the right and Philipp Wiesinger marshalling the defence through the centre.
Rene Renner and Reinhold Ranftl will provide the width from the midfield acting as the wing-backs. They will be flanking James Holland and Peter Michorl who will play as the double pivot in the centre of the park.
We can expect to see Dominik Frieser starting again, but on the right side of the front three. Klauss and Samuel Tetteh, however, will be relegated to the bench in place of Husein Balic and Marko Raguz who will play as the left winger and striker respectively. Raguz is LASK’s top scorer in the competition with five goals.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Schlager; Andrade, Wiesinger, Trauner; Ranftl, Michorl, Holland, Renner; Frieser, Raguz, Balic
- Manchester United and LASK have only met once previously – the first leg of the Europa League that finished 5-0 in favour of United.
- The Red Devils have an unbeaten record against Austrian sides, winning seven games and drawing once.
- Bruno Fernandes it the joint top scorer in the Europa League right now with six goals – one for United, five for Sporting FC.
- Bruno Fernandes and Fred are also joint second-highest assist providers in the competition with four each, one behind Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.
- No club in the history of the Europa League has managed to overcome a 5-0 deficit from the first leg.
Player to Watch
Odion Ighalo became a fan favourite as soon as he signed for Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua in January, 2020. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Ighalo’s performances were satisfying enough for the club to extend his stay in England to for another six months, even though his loan ended in June this year.
After playing a combined total of half an hour in his first two games, Ighalo went on to score in his first start for the club against Club Brugge in the Europa League. In his three appearances for United in the competition, he has scored two goals and set up one more. He was also awarded the Man of the Match award for his exploits against LASK in the first leg.
Manchester United 3-0 LASK
Manchester United have been on a brilliant run of form since signing Bruno Fernandes from Sporting FC in January. Not only have they been getting high-score results, but they have also been able to grind out victories against tougher opponents, for example, the win against Leicester City on the final day of the league season, or the one against Norwich in the FA Cup.
That said, we do not expect Bruno to feature on Wednesday, but his presence in the team has undoubtedly boosted morale. It could be a honeymoon period, but it will be enough for them to cruise past LASK with another dominant victory.