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Confirmed XI: Henderson, Bailly, Fernandes, James and Rashford start against Real Sociedad; Diallo and Shoretire on the bench

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action when they face Real Sociedad at the Juventus Stadium in Turin in the round of 32 first leg this evening. United exited the group stages of the UEFA Champions League back in December, falling into the Europa League and face a tough test against the Spanish side, who sit fifth in the La Liga table this season, 16 points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid. United started well in the Champions League with victories over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig but fell foul to Istanbul Basaksehir in the third match of the group. Weeks later, United beat the Turkish side in the second group match against them, falling foul to both PSG and Leipzig which saw them finish third in the group.

Real Sociedad started in the group stages of the Europa League this season, drawing Napoli, AZ Alkmaar and HNK Rijeka in the group. They beat Rijeka 1-0 in the first group stage match, and were beaten by 1-0 Napoli in the second. Then came a 1-0 win over AZ followed by three draws; one with AZ (0-0), Rijeka (2-2) and Napoli (1-1) which saw the Spanish side reach the round of 32 stage in the competition by finishing in second place in the group – two points behind Napoli who topped the group. It is not great that United are back in the Europa League again this season as the playing matches on a Thursday and a Sunday can upset the balance and United would be better qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

Manchester United:

Henderson;

Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles;

McTominay, Fred;

Greenwood, Fernandes, James;

Rashford

Substitutes:

De Gea, Grant; Lindelof, Shaw, Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Diallo, Matic, Shoretire; Martial

Real Sociedad:

Remiro;

Zaldua, Elustondo, Zubeldia, Monreal;

David Silva, Illarramendi, Merino;

Januzaj, Isak, Oyarzabal

Substitutes:

Larranaga, Portu, Munoz, Guridi, Sagnan, Guevara, Merquelanz, Gorosabel, Barrenetxea, Le Normand, Bautista, Zubimendi

United and Real Sociedad have met twice in the history of both clubs. This happened in the UEFA Champions League during the 2013/14 season whilst David Moyes was managing the club. The meetings happened in the group stages of the competition with United winning the first meeting 1-0, which was played at Old Trafford with the only goal of the game scored by Iñigo Martínez’s own goal. The second group stage match was a 0-0 draw played at the Estadio Anoeta. In the first match, only three players remain at the club; David De Gea and Phil Jones are the only players still at the club and Michael Carrick, who is now on the coaching staff. Jones and De Gea also featured in the second match between the two clubs.

United are undefeated against the Spanish side, winning one match and drawing the other, scoring one goal and keeping two clean sheets. Real Sociedad have lost just seven competitive matches this season, five in La Liga, one in the Copa del Rey and one in the Europa League. United have lost eight matches this season; four in the Premier League, one in the Carabao Cup and three in the Champions League. Both teams are flying high in their relevant leagues this season, with United in second place and Real Sociedad in fifth also both teams are still in cup competitions; Copa del Rey and the Emirates FA Cup, also featuring in the knockout stages of European competition.

Written by John Walker

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