Stuttering Premier League giants Manchester United travel to Spain for the first leg of their Champions League Last 16 tie against revitalized Sevilla which – by all accounts – should be a tantalizing match-up between two exciting sides.
Vincenzo Montella Gaining Footing in Spain
Spanish side Sevilla has over the past couple of years established itself as a household name in the European continent. Their impressive European pedigree was built thanks to impressive records under current PSG manager Unai Emery whose successors at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan endured mixed fortunes ever since the historic Europa League three-peat from 2014 to 2016.
Departures of Emery and sports director and football guru Monchi ushered a new era at the Spanish club which oversaw Jorge Sampaoli come and leave for Argentina, Eduardo Berizzo suffer from illness and below-par results in his six-month spell, before former AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella was brought in on a promise of a new beginning. The Italian made a solid start to his life at Sevilla but his hard work had been besieged by injuries. Montella’s men, however, managed to get back on course with three successive victories in Coppa del Rey and La Liga over the past two weeks and will play host to Manchester United in high spirits.
Influential star Ever Banega is closing on full match fitness after a thigh injury but the game against Man United is coming too soon for him. Luis Muriel and Nolito are another two notable absentees, together with Joaquin Correa who picked up a hamstring injury last weekend.
Red Devils Ready to Unleash the Fury
Manchester United are back in the knockout stage of the Champions League after a four-year absence and will be keen to make an impression despite their stuttering form of late. Red Devils have been alternating between wins and defeats over the past five matches in all competitions and Jose Mourinho will not have been too pleased with the level of performances from some of his highest earners.
As for the game against Sevilla, all eyes will naturally be on the January signing Alexis Sanchez who is expected to spark United’s charge for the second major international trophy in two years. Having claimed the Europa League title last year, Manchester United would be over the moon to win the Champions League and reclaim their spot within the continent’s elite despite their problematic run. Paul Pogba is another Man United star who will be under scrutiny in Spain – should he earn his place in the team of course. Jose Mourinho has not been too overjoyed by his most recent performances and could very well decide to bench him after completely ignoring the French star for the FA Cup win over Huddersfield.
Mourinho has experienced huge injury problems of late and will have Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo unavailable through injury. Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Dailey Blind are all yet to reach full fitness and could be kept out of the squad.
European heavyweights Sevilla have gained valuable international experience over the course of last couple of years during which time Manchester United largely struggled to break back onto the scene. Rojiblancos have enough about them to cause all sorts of problems to injury-depleted and out-of-form Jose Mourinho’s side.
Top pick: Sevilla 3.20 (11/5) @BetFred
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – yes 1.91 (10/11) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 2: Over 2.5 goals 2.20 (6/5) @Betfair