Manchester United will be looking to boost their chances of qualifying for the Champions League when they take on Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final on Thursday evening.
Date: Thursday 04 May
Jose Mourinho’s side are now favourites to lift the Europa League trophy but they face a tough two-leg clash against Celta Vigo.
The Spanish outfit have been in good form this season and will be hoping to take an early lead in the first leg at the Balaidos stadium.
United have been plagued with injuries in recent weeks and their Premier League campaign took a disappointing hit on Sunday when they were held to a 1-1 draw with relegation-battling Swansea.
They will be looking to bounce straight back with a victory in Spain but they will come up against some old enemies who could spoil the fun for United on Thursday evening.
While Vigo’s injury list is not as severe as United’s, they do have a few absentees on Thursday evening.
Goalkeeper Ruben Blanco picked up an injury at the beginning of last month and he could be a doubt.
Defender Carles Planas and centre-forward Giuseppe Rossi won’t feature as they are out with long-term injuries.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are still expected to remain absent despite already missing a month of action.
Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly both picked up injuries against Swansea and they aren’t expected to feature either.
However, United were boosted by the return of Juan Mata in the squad on the weekend and he could be in line for a start on Thursday evening – though Mourinho will probably prefer to keep him rested if possible.
Paul Pogba could make a return after missing the last two fixtures while Marouane Fellaini’s suspension will not apply in the European competition so he should feature.
Iago Aspas: The ex-Liverpool striker didn’t make the cut in Merseyside but he has certainly been impressive this season for Celta Vigo. He has already netted 25 goals throughout the 2016-17 season, including five in the Europa League and he’ll be the man Vigo turn to in the first leg.
David De Gea: United’s injury woes means they will be forced to field an inexperienced back-line and that means De Gea’s role will become even more crucial. Not only will United rely on his impressive shot-stopping to keep Aspas and co. quiet, they will need his leadership at the back to control, advise and support the make-shift defence.
- Only Hugo Lloris has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than David De Gea and United will need him on top form on Thursday evening.
- Manchester United have not lost a game in 25 successive matches in all competitions.
- 12 of those unbeaten results have been draws.
- United have also won six of their last eight Europa League clashes – remaining unbeaten in four games away from home.
- Celta Vigo scored five goals in their last two European home games.
- The Spaniards have struggled for form of late though, suffering three successive defeats in the league.
United are certainly the stronger squad on paper but given all of their injuries,
the Spaniards could take an early lead. However, Mourinho knows what it takes to come away with a draw and that would be a good result in the away leg.
Celta Vigo 1-1 Manchester United