Europa League is gearing up towards the second half of the group phase as Fenerbahçe welcome Manchester United to Turkey in what could be the game that has the biggest influence in Group A standings.
Fenerbahçe have picked up some much needed form since the 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford following wins against Konyaspor and Karabukspor with the latter especially morale boosting due to the convincing nature of the result and more so, the performance. Those two wins on the bounce have seen the Turkish giants climb the league table, now up to fifth and Dick Advocaat will be looking at the game against Mourinho’s lacklustre United as his best chance to, in some ways, avenge the previous result and at the same time take a big step towards qualification by upsetting the visitors.
Manchester United, since the 4-1 win against Fenerbahçe, have suffered poor results including the 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge and the 0-0 stalemate against Burnley despite dominating the whole game that has seen them slip down to 8th in the Premier League. Mourinho, on the other hand, has faced multiple charges for misconduct, imposed the FA and is on the verge of getting a touchline ban for his next domestic outing against Swansea. Things are not going well down at Old Trafford and the Europa League is now a welcome distraction for United to play some attacking football and score goals to get themselves out of the rut they are in at the moment. But whether or not the Portuguese will start his strongest 11 to try and do so, remains to be seen.
Fenerbahçe have no notable injuries and almost have a clean bill of health ahead of United’s visit meaning they are likely to start their best eleven on Thursday night.
José Mourinho will be without Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones for the trip to Istanbul although Anthony Martial and Chris Smalling could be fit in time to face Fenerbahçe.
- Fenerbahçe are unbeaten in seven European home games (W6 D1), winning the last five. They have kept clean sheets in five of those seven matches.
- United have gone six games without a European away win (D1 L5) and failed to score in the most recent two of those matches.
- Rooney needs one more goal to join Ruud van Nistelrooy as United’s all-time top marksman in UEFA competition with 37 goals.
Martin Skrtel – Fenerbahçe
Being a former Liverpool player, this game obviously is more important for centre-half Martin Skrtel and the fact that Fenerbahçe have managed to keep two clean sheets in the run up to this big fixture against the Red Devils will encourage the 31-year old to bring that form into Thursday’s key group stage encounter. His aerial prowess in set plays will be very vital as United could and would be without some of their physically strong players who usually assure enough protection to the goalkeeper.
Luke Shaw – Manchester United
Luke Shaw had a very bright start but suffered another injury in the defeat to Watford, and was then subject to criticism by the manager but now the English full-back has (in the absence of Eric Bailly) been reinstated to the starting 11. He is still some way off his full fitness but at the moment all he needs is games under his belt which is what he will get in Turkey as he tries to nail down that left-back position as his own. His speed and directness from that left flank is always hard to defend against and Manchester United will be looking to exploit that on Thursday as he could be vital to their target to finish top of the group.
Fenerbahçe are a different proposition in their own backyard with the pulsating atmosphere they generate in Istanbul and they have only lost one in the last nine games with that defeat coming at Old Trafford. United will do very well to get three points on Thursday hence I’m going for an entertaining draw.
Fenerbahçe 2-2 Manchester United