Celta de Vigo – Manchester United (Europa League)
Celta de Vigo and Manchester United discuss the first leg of Europa League semi-finals this thursday night at Estadio Municipal de Balaídos, in Vigo. Since securing their presence in this stage of the competition, with a 1-1 draw in Genk’s home, Celta de Vigo lost all the three games they played in the spanish league, making it clear that all their attention are now in this european competition. Manchester United, on their turn, although they are favorites to win Europa League, they have seen better days and arrive here with a huge list of injured players, especially at the back.
Celta de Vigo took their first step in Europa League by taking 2en place in Grupo G, qualifying themselves behind Ajax, and took Shaktar Donetsk, FK Krasnodar and Genk out of their way, but now are forced to face one of the biggest football clubs in England. Since they first stepped in Europa League’s stages, back in 1971/72, previously named UEFA Cup, these semi-finals are the further they have ever get. Europa League are the main focus for Eduardo Berizzo, Celta’s coach, something that is already very clear with the team losing all the last 3 games in La Liga and having rotated several regular players in weekend, in order to keep key-players fresh for this clash.
Although The Celts are known for being a toughest team in home ground, that is something which is not being reflected in Europa League, with the team only winning 3 of the 6 games they played, losing one against Shakhtar Donetsk, and scored 10 goals and conceded 7 in the process. Its clear that Celta de Vigo are a good team in what attacking is concerned, strong in shooting from direct free kicks, counterattacks and in creating chances through individual skill, with talented players like Iago Aspas, Sisto, Dani Wass and Guidetti. However, they are very weak at defending, with weaknesses in aerial duels, defending set pieces, very unorganized at the back and very weak in protecting the lead.
In their last 5 official games, Celta de Vigo only won 1 game, drawing 1 and losing the other 3. This sequence of results started with a 0-3 away victory at Granada’s home. This result was followed by a 1-1 away draw against Genk, for Europa League, a 0-1 home defeat against Real Betis, a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla’s ground, and in their last clash, a 0-3 home defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao. Giuseppe Rossi is out due to injury, while Carles Planas and Blaco are both doubts.
Probable Lineup: Álvarez – Mallo, Fontàs, Cabral and Jonny – Hernández and Radoja – Aspas, Wass and Sisto – Guidetti.
Manchester United, on their turn, also finished the Group stage in 2nd place in Group A, behind Fenerbahce, and eliminated Saint-Étienne, FK Rostov and Anderlecht before reaching these semi-finals. Manchester United are a team more used to play in the Champions League and have never won Europa League, counting with only a few presences in the competition, with these semi-finals being the further they have ever get. This is the 3rd time the english team faces a spanish side in Europa League, and were always eliminated by them, in 1982/83 against Valencia, and more recently, in 2011/12 against Athletic Bilbao. In their 6 away games played in this competition, United only won 2, losing other 2, and scored 6 goals and conceded 5 in the process.
Unlike their opponents, José Mourinho’s men can’t turn all their attention to conquering Europa League, having the goal of reaching a Champions League spot in the Premier League table, being only 1 point behind 4th placed Manchester City. The Red Devils show a more talented team than their opponents, being more organized at the back and with greater offensive versatility, very strong at creating long shot opportunities and in creating chances using through balls, also counting with very talented players like Rashford, Mkhitaryan and Martial, all capable of making the difference at any moment.
In their last 5 official games, Manchester United won 3 games and draw the other 2. This sequence of results started with a 2-0 home win against Chelsea. This result was followed by a 2-1 home win against Anderlecht, for the Europa League, a 0-2 away victory over Burnley, a 0-0 away draw against Manchester CIty, and in their last clash, a 1-1 home draw against Swansea City. Smalling, Jones, Marcos Rojo, Fosu-Mensah, Ibrahimovic and Luke Shaw are all out due to injury, with Eric Bailly and Juan Mata still doubts.
Probable Lineup: De Gea – Valencia, Darmian, Blind and Young – Fellaini, Herrera and Pogba – Mkhitaryan, Rashford and Martial.
This will be the first direct confront between both teams. Celta de Vigo are a good team playing at home and rotated the regular starters over the weekend. Manchester United faces a serious injury crisis at the back, but are still more talented and better organized, with a stronger midfield. Both teams should be more worried at keeping the ball away from their goal, with the best scoring chances coming from counterattacks and set pieces.