A place in the quarter-finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League will be on the line when Manchester United take on AC Milan at San Siro this week.
Manchester United will be aiming to advance through to the next stage of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with Serie A giants AC Milan at San Siro this Thursday in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie.
The first leg, played out at Old Trafford, ended in a 1-1 draw as Simon Kjaer’s late header earned the Rossoneri a vital away goal after Amad Diallo had put the Red Devils in front. The away goal does give Milan an advantage but they cannot afford to rest on that and will need to take the game to Manchester United, who have been impressive on the road.
Leading up to the game, Milan suffered a narrow 1-0 loss to Napoli in Serie A and will be itching to bounce back to winning ways. United, meanwhile, managed to eke out a narrow 1-0 win over West Ham United in the Premier League and will be gunning to build on that and book a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Ahead of what promises to be an exciting encounter coming our way from San Siro this Thursday between two giants of European football, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Finally back with the team ⚽️❤️🖤 pic.twitter.com/UETm85FuXW
— Ismaël Bennacer (@IsmaelBennacer) March 15, 2021
AC Milan have received some positive updates on the injury front ahead of the game as ex-Red Devil Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back to full fitness and available for selection, along with key midfielder Ismael Bennacer.
However, Alessio Romagnoli, Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic and Davide Calabria are all doubts and will undergo late fitness tests to determine their availability. January signing Mario Mandzukic, though, remains unavailable. There will likely be a few changes made to the side that lost to Napoli last time out.
No alterations are likely in the back five, however, with Gianluigi Donnarumma continuing in goal, shielded by first-leg’s goalscorer Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori while Manchester United loanee Diogo Dalot and Theo Hernandez occupy the full-back slots. The latter’s forward runs will be a key facet of Milan’s attacking play on the night at San Siro.
Franck Kessie, who enjoyed a stellar game at Old Trafford last week, will once again essay the box-to-box role in midfield for the Rossoneri. And even though Bennacer is available again, he is unlikely to be rushed back, meaning Sandro Tonali, who was one of the few positives against Napoli, continues alongside Kessie as the deep-lying playmaker.
Alexis Saelemaekers should replace Samu Castillejo on the right-wing while Hakan Calhanoglu will provide the creativity from the No. 10 role. Rade Krunic, who has been utilised in an unfamiliar role on the left flank of late, should continue amid doubts over Rebic and Leao’s involvement. Ibrahimovic will be back leading the line for Milan.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Tomori, Theo; Kessie, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Calhanogly, Krunic; Ibrahimovic
Manchester United have been greeted with some positive news on the injury front as midfielders Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek have returned to full fitness and will travel to Italy, while David de Gea is available again. Edinson Cavani was also part of the travelling squad initially but had to be cut out after he suffered a minor setback in the final training session.
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek are back in training 😍 pic.twitter.com/SMXTL6TRIi
— utdreport (@utdreport) March 16, 2021
Anthony Martial remains unavailable after he picked up an injury in the first leg while Eric Bailly also does not make the trip to Lombardy, along with youngster Shola Shoretire, who will be involved with the U23s. Juan Mata and Phil Jones are ruled out for the Red Devils.
Even though de Gea is back, Dean Henderson is likely to be stuck with in goal and be given a chance to redeem himself for the mistake in the first leg. The backline pretty much picks itself with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof lining up at the centre flanked by the duo of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, who was top-notch against West Ham last time out.
While both Pogba and van de Beek are available, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unlikely to rush them back in given the time they have been out of action. That would mean that Fred and Scott McTominay continue as the two central midfielders for Manchester United with the creative onus once again falling completely on Bruno Fernandes.
Marcus Rashford is available after missing the first leg and is a certain starter on the left-wing while Daniel James could be persisted with on the right, given that his pace could come in handy in exploiting the space left behind by Milan left-back Theo Hernandez. Mason Greenwood remains the only option for the manager in the centre-forward slot.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood
- Manchester United are undefeated in 24 of their last 26 matches in the Europa League.
- AC Milan have won four of their five home matches against Manchester United in major European competitions.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last five matches against AC Milan in all competitions.
- AC Milan have managed to keep just one clean sheet in their last nine home games in European competitions (including qualifiers).
- Manchester United talisman Bruno Fernandes has scored seven goals in his last seven away games in the UEFA Europa League.
Player to Watch
While there will be a lot riding on how the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, on Thursday, the spotlight will invariably be on a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recently announced his international comeback with the Sweden national team, at the age of 39.
Back from injury, the veteran striker will square up against his former club in Manchester United. While his stay at Old Trafford wasn’t a long one, it is the only club where he has won a European trophy in his career – having lifted the UEFA Europa League in 2016/17.
His return comes as a huge boost for Milan, who have struggled without a focal point in attack during his absence. A beloved figure among the Red Devils’ supporters, Ibrahimovic will be aiming to break their hearts and lead the Rossoneri a step closer to Europa League glory by taking them through to the quarter-finals.
AC Milan 1-2 Manchester United
While both AC Milan and Manchester United have been handed crucial injury boosts, neither team is playing particularly well heading into Thursday night’s game. But the Red Devils have often stepped up their game on the road this season whereas the Rossoneri are without a win in their last four matches on their home turf.
In what is likely to be a tightly-contested game with the smallest of margins, this could make a telling difference. The return of Paul Pogba and the availability of Marcus Rashford after missing the first leg should also play a major role for Manchester United, helping them clinch a narrow win that will take them through to the next round.