Celta Vigo vs Manchester United – Thursday 20:05BST/21:05CEST – Balaidos – Vigo.
The Europa League may provide Manchester United with the only path to the UEFA Champions League. Fifth in the English Premier League Manchester United failed to beat City in the Manchester Derby, and then dropped another two points against Swansea City on April 30.
Recent form in the league, therefore, suggests that Manchester will not reach the top form in the EPL. Hence, Europe is now the easiest path to return to Europe’s premier competition. But the semi-final tie against Celta Vigo could not have come at a worse time for the Red Devils.
Manchester will travel to Spain missing seven players, including key players Zlatan Ibrahimović, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Phil Jones. Ibrahimović’s absence will perhaps affect Manchester United the most. The enigmatic striker ruptured his ACL in the second leg quarterfinal against RSC Anderlecht, and the tall Swedish striker will now be out for around one year.
Without Ibrahimović Manchester United have been an ordinary club despite the fact that manager José Mourinho €185 million in new players last summer. For Celta Vigo this means that they are not perhaps the favourites, but have a good chance to advance to the next round nonetheless.
Spanish club football, in general, has been the best on the continent over the last ten years with Spanish clubs winning 12 titles in the UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Europa League in the last decade. Celta Vigo will now look to add to this tally, and the Galician side might have a good chance to do just that.
Currently, eleventh in La Liga the Europa League, in fact, may provide Celta with the only real opportunity to reach European football next season. But with the club possessing a balanced squad that has impressed in the Europa League up to this point they may have enough to upset Manchester United in this semi-final.
Celta Vigo vs Manchester United – Players to look out for:
Iago Aspas #10 – Celta Vigo
Iago Aspas is both familiar with English football, and the Europa League. The striker won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2015. He then joined Liverpool FC, but his stint in England ended in disappointment after just one season. Joining Celta Vigo in the summer of 2015 Aspas has quickly overcome his disappointment in England by becoming Celta’s most prolific striker. This season Aspas has managed 17 goals, and four assists, in 29 La Liga games, as well as five goals, and two assists, in ten Europa League games. With Aspas in top form, all season Manchester United will have to do well to keep the Spaniard of the score sheet.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan #22 – Manchester United
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was arguably the best player in the Bundesliga last season, and his performances with Borussia Dortmund earned the Armenian a €42 million transfer to Manchester United. Often considered an afterthought by manager José Mourinho at the beginning of the season Mkhitaryan struggled to make his mark on English football. Many of course would remember that Mkhitaryan is a sensitive soul, who needs time to gel with teammates at a new club. Hence, it took some time for Mkhitaryan to get used to his new surroundings, and the attacking midfielder’s numbers have improved in the last half of the season. With injuries to Ibrahimović, and Wayne Rooney looking to rediscover his form Mkhitaryan could be the key to Manchester’s success against Celta Vigo.
Celta Vigo vs Manchester United – Match Stats
- Celta’s record in nine matches against English sides is W5 D0 L4 (W2 D0 L2 in Vigo – W3 D0 L2 in England).
- Celta are unbeaten in their last five European matches (W4 D1). They have kept just one clean sheet in six UEFA Europa League home fixtures this season.
- They have lost the last three of those games, most recently going down 2-1 at Newcastle in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage in the most recent one.
- United’s record in 47 meetings with Spanish teams is W12 D19 L16 (W9 D9 L4 in Manchester – W2 D10 L10 in Spain).
- Those ties include three European finals held on neutral territory (W1 L2).
- United have not lost in their last eight UEFA Europa League games (W6 D2). Their away record in this season’s competition is W2 D2 L2, averaging exactly one goal a game.
- United are striving for the only UEFA club trophy that has so far eluded them. This is their first semi-final in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League.
Prediction: Celta Vigo vs Manchester United 1-0
Celta Vigo vs Manchester United – Possible Lineups
Álvarez – Roncaglia, Fontás, Gómez, Lemos – Díaz, Sánchez – Bongonda, Hjulsager – Guidetti, Aspas
Coach: Eduardo Berizzo
De Gea – Shaw, Blind, Bailly, Valencia – Herrera, Pogba – Martial, Mata, Mkhitaryan – Rashford
Coach: José Mourinho