Manchester United will resume their UEFA Europa League journey this week when they take on La Liga club Granada in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.

The first leg matches of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League quarter-final ties get played out this Thursday night. And, Manchester United, who are one of the favourites to go all the way in the tournament, face off against La Liga side Granada at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes, hoping to take a step closer towards the penultimate stage.

Manchester United began the season in the Champions League and looked set for progression into the knockout stages until a late capitulation saw them finish third in their group and end up in the Europa League. The Red Devils saw off Spanish outfit Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 with relative comfort.

However, they were made to work hard by AC Milan in the previous stage, but prevailed 2-1 on aggregate. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have lost just one of their last 16 games in all competitions, most recently beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at home.

Granada, meanwhile, are in their maiden campaign in the Europa League, having finished 7th in La Liga last term. The Nazaries finished second in Group E, a point behind leaders PSV before eliminating Italian giants Napoli and Norwegian outfit Molde in the previous two rounds, both with 3-2 aggregate scorelines.

However, Diego Martinez’s men are not in the best of moments heading into Thursday’s game given that they have lost their last three fixtures against Molde, Valencia and, most recently, Villarreal. In what will be the first-ever meeting between Granada and Manchester United, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Granada

Diego Martinez has a number of pressing roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United for the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg. On Thursday, the Granada manager will be bereft of the services of as many as eight first-team players.

The likes of Dimitri Foulquier, Carlos Neva, Pepe Sanchez, Alberto Soro, Luis Milla and Luis Suarez are all on the sidelines due to their respective injuries. Quini and Neyder Lozano are unavailable as well, with the duo were ineligible to feature for Granada in the Europa League.

The absence of just about every full-back means Jesus Vallejo could start as the right-back, even though captain Victor Dias is available. On the left flank, Adrian Marin could come in for Quini, with German Sanchez and Domingos Duarte pairing up at the heart of the Granada defence, which will provide cover to Rui Silva in goal.

Up ahead in midfield, Maxime Gonalons will have the onus on him to keep things tight in the middle of the park. The French midfielder will likely have Yan Eteki for company in the double pivot, with the duo primarily aiming to stifle Manchester United during their build-up play.

The key man in attack for Granada will be Kenedy with his darting runs from the right flank, with Darwin Machis set to line up on the left wing. Yangel Herrera will reprise the no. 10 role, although he will often drop deep to form a three-man midfield unit when Manchester United are in possession. Finally, Roberto Soldado will lead the line for Granada on Thursday.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Silva; Vallejo, Duarte, Sanchez, Marin; Gonalons, Eteki; Kenedy, Herrera, Machis; Soldado

Manchester United

Like his counterpart in the Granada dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a few fresh concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes for the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg. On Thursday, the Manchester United manager will have to make do without as many as three first-team players.

Phil Jones remains a long-term absentee while Eric Bailly is unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Anthony Martial could miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury he picked up in the international break. Solskjaer is also sweating over the fitness of Marcus Rashford, although the English international has travelled with the squad to take on Granada.

Alex Telles is also a part of the travelling squad, meaning he ought to have recovered from the illness that he was down with recently. The Brazilian full-back should, therefore, be back in the starting lineup, replacing Luke Shaw in the left-back slot.

On the opposite flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a certainty, while Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will continue as the central defensive partnership in the absence of Eric Bailly. In goal, David de Gea could get what is now a rare start, in what will be a chance for him to impress Solskjaer after recently losing his spot as the first-choice goalkeeper to Dean Henderson.

Up ahead in midfield, Paul Pogba and Fred should continue to pair up in the double pivot, with Bruno Fernandes reprising the no. 10 role again, meaning Donny van de Beek will miss out. As for the two wide slots, Rashford might be given a breather and ample time to recover.

As a result, Daniel James should start on the left wing, with Mason Greenwood taking his place on the right flank. Finally, Edinson Cavani will spearhead the Manchester United attack against Granada, with Solskjaer having no option but to continue playing him as the central striker.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Fred, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, James; Cavani

Key Stats

  • Granada will be the 11th different Spanish side Manchester United have faced in major European competition; the Red Devils lost their first ever meeting with five of the previous 10 (Athletic Bilbao in 1957, Real Madrid in 1957, Barcelona in 1984, Atletico Madrid in 1991 and Deportivo de La Coruaa in 2001).
  • Manchester United have reached the quarter-final stages of a major European competition for the 27th time, progressing from 17 of the previous 26. They are winless in the first leg of each of their last three two-legged quarter final matches in Europe (D2 L1).
  • Granada have lost each of their last three games while Manchester United have been beaten in just one of their last 16 outings in all competitions.
  • Including qualifying rounds, Yangel Herrera is Granada’s top scorer in European competition this season with five goals.
  • Manchester United have scored 21 goals in European competition this season, with 13 of them being scored by either Marcus Rashford (seven goals) or Bruno Fernandes (six goals).

Player to Watch

David de Gea

Running out of time at Manchester United. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Running out of time at Manchester United. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

2020/21 started as a tricky campaign for David de Gea, with Dean Henderson returning to Old Trafford, determined to become the first-choice goalkeeper for Manchester United. It took its time to materialise, but the Englishman has now usurped de Gea to the spot.

This has, in turn, put his future at Manchester United under the scanner, with the Spaniard now being linked with a bevy of clubs across Europe. With time running out for de Gea to turn things around, he will need to make good on whatever opportunities he gets, starting with the game against Granada on Thursday. Will de Gea step up this midweek?

Prediction

Granada 0-1 Manchester United

Granada will make things difficult for Manchester United, despite their poor form heading into the contest. And, with the Red Devils often struggling to create the openings against sides that give very little space to work with, expect the chances to come few and far between, but with Marcus Rashford expected to come off the bench, the visitors should have enough to nick the first leg by the odd goal.

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