A place in the UEFA Europa League final will be on the line when AS Roma welcome Manchester United to Stadio Olimpico on Thursday.

Just two more games remain before we have our UEFA Europa League finalists for the 2020/21 season nailed down. The penultimate stage of the season will culminate on Thursday, with Arsenal taking on Villarreal at the Emirates, while Manchester United will travel to Stadio Olimpico to take on AS Roma for the semi-final second leg, hoping to book their place in the grand finale in Gdansk.

AS Roma reached the knockout stages of the Europa League by topping Group A before easing past Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk in the first two phases before being made to work hard by Ajax last time out. The Giallorossi’s recent run of form, though, has been quite concerning, as Paulo Fonseca & co. have failed to win each of their last six encounters.

Manchester United, on the other hand, dropped down to the Europa League after finishing third in their group in the UEFA Champions League, before beating Real Sociedad, AC Milan and Granada in the three knockout rounds. The Red Devils have been in fine touch for some time now, losing just one of their last 22 games in all competitions. while having a 100 percent away record to boot in the Europa League.

The first leg, played last week at Old Trafford, saw Manchester United cruise to a 6-2 win courtesy a second half blitzkrieg, after AS Roma had been 2-1 up at the interval. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

AS Roma

Paulo Fonseca has a number of pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United for the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg. On Thursday, the AS Roma boss will be bereft of the services of as many as nine first-team players due to various injury-related issues.

Pau Lopez (shoulder), Leonardo Spinazzola (hamstring) and Jordan Veretout (muscle injury) all pulled up in the first half last week and are set to miss out in the second leg. Apart from the trio, the likes of Marash Kumbulla (hip), Riccardo Calafiori (muscle injury), Amadou Diawara (groin), Carles Perez (hamstring), Stephan El Shaarawy (knock) and Pedro (hamstring) are also sidelined.

However, there is some good news, as Gianluca Mancini is available after serving his one-match ban last week in the first leg against Manchester United. The Italian international, who has been linked with Manchester United in recent times, will line up in the three-man central defensive unit alongside Roger Ibanez and former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling.

In Lopez’s absence, Antonio Mirante is the automatic pick in goal for Roma, who will line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in front of him. Back to the outfield positions, and in midfield, Bryan Cristante will start in the double pivot after being deployed in the back three last week. The Italian international will have Gonzalo Villar for company in the middle of the park.

The onus on providing the width higher up the pitch will fall on the wing-backs – Rick Karsdorp and Bruno Perez – with the duo also falling back to form a back five in the defensive phase. The responsibility of providing the creative impetus will fall on Lorenzo Pellegrini and former Manchester United playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Edin Dzeko leading the line for AS Roma.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mirante; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Cristante, Villar, Peres; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko

Manchester United

Unlike his counterpart in the AS Roma dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer barely has any fitness issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Stadio Olimpico for the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg. On Thursday, the Manchester United manager will only have to make do without three first-team players, with Phil Jones and Anthony Martial recuperating from their respective knee injuries.

In addition, Daniel James has been excluded from the travelling squad due to a minor injury. Manchester United have had an entire week’s rest, in essence, after having had their league game this past weekend against Liverpool postponed following their fans’ invasion of the Old Trafford pitch hours ahead of the encounter.

However, Solskjaer could still name a largely second-string side on Thursday against Roma. David de Gea ought to keep his place in goal ahead of Dean Henderson, as has become customary in Europa League lately. In front of him, Manchester United being set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a number of fringe players set to be given the chance to impress in Rome.

Two of those aforementioned players will line up at the back, with Eric Bailly pairing up with Victor Lindelof at the heart of the Manchester United defence, while Alex Telles will be one of the two full-backs – Aaron Wan-Bissaka being the other, although Brandon Williams is an alternative if the first-choice right-back needs a rest.

Up ahead in midfield, Nemanja Matic ought to get a run-out, partnering Fred in the double pivot. Mason Greenwood should spearhead the Manchester United attack, but the rest of the side will comprise of backup stars, with Donny van de Beek likely to reprise the no. 10 role, while Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo will be the two wide men against AS Roma.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Telles; Matic, Fred; Diallo, van de Beek, Pogba; Greenwood

Key Stats

  • Manchester United and AS Roma have been paired together three times previously in UEFA competition; their six encounters prior to this tie, all in the UEFA Champions League, took place within a 12-month period from April 2007 to April 2008, with the Red Devils winning 4 of those ties (D1 L1), including a 7-1 result, which is Roma’s heaviest European loss till date.
  • Roma have won ten of their 18 UEFA fixtures in Rome against English visitors (D4 L4), including five of the last six, although the two victories in knockout fixtures, 1-0 against Arsenal in the 2008/09 Champions League Round of 16 and 4-2 against Liverpool in the semi-finals of the same competition ten years later, were not enough to turn around the tie after first leg defeats in England.
  • Manchester United’s record away to Italian clubs is W6 D3 L10, with wins recorded in each of their last three such fixtures – most recently against AC Milan in this season’s Europa League Round of 16. Including their Round of 32 win over Real Sociedad in neutral venue Turin, the Red Devils have avoided defeat in their last seven matches on Italian soil (W5 D2).
  • Manchester  United have won their last four two-legged knockout ties against Italian sides, taking their all-time record to W7 L6. They also lost the 1999 UEFA Super Cup to Lazio (0-1) – their only final against a Serie A opposition.
  • AS Roma’s aggregate record is W8 L15 when they have been beaten away in the first leg of a UEFA tie. Manchester United, on the other hand,  have been successful in 19 of the 24 previous European ties in which they won the first leg at home.

Player to Watch

Donny van de Beek

Embed from Getty Images

It has been a difficult maiden campaign with Manchester United for Donny van de Beek. However, he now has the chance to end it on a strong note, seeing as he is almost certain to finally get some much sought-after game-time due to the fact that Manchester United will be playing four games in seven days.

While for all intents and purposes, the tie between Manchester United and AS Roma might be all but done, it will give van de Beek the opportunity to play without any baggage, which might enable him to express himself freely. If he does manage to impress, a few more opportunities could beckon in a busy end to the season. A big game, this, for van de Beek.

Prediction

AS Roma 1-2 Manchester United

AS Roma come into this game possibly buoyed by the announcement of former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho being set to take over the reigns at Stadio Olimpico next season. However, in the urgent matters at hand, they are at a massive disadvantage in the UEFA Europa League semi-final, and will be chasing the game from the word go.

A well-rested Manchester United, though, are just the kind of opponent they would have wished to avoid, even if they are largely second string in nature. With several players having a point to prove, and a number of game-changers on the bench, the visitors will have more than enough quality to topple AS Roma for good. The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.

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