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Preview: Europa League or bust for Manchester United this season?

Celta Vigo -v- Manchester United 

Balaídos, Vigo, Pontevedra, Spain

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 4th May 2017; KO 20:05 BST

Live on BT Sport 2HD

Manchester United embark on their semi-final first leg match in the UEFA Europa League against Celta Vigo in Spain on Thursday evening. This is one of the most important matches of the season, as will be the second leg at Old Trafford a week later. Sandwiched either side of a fist to the Emirates to face Arsenal in the Premier League, United do not have an easy week, facing Tottenham Hotspur away after the second leg, which means the next four matches will be make or break for United’s season. Jose Mourinho has seen his side suffer some serious injuries, suggesting some players should come and fight for their team, with others ruled out for the remainder of the season. Only Juan Mata has boosted United with his return from injury ahead of the visit of Swansea City to Old Trafford on Sunday. The Portuguese manager may be waiting on the fitness of Eric Bailly, who was injured on Sunday but has not yet been ruled out by the club for this match.

Celta Vigo have not had a good period recently, being beaten 3-0 at home by Athletic Club this weekend, beaten 2-1 by Sevilla days before and then beaten 1-0 by Real Betis before that, their last Europa League match saw them unbeaten, earning a draw with Genk, winning 4-3 on aggregate to set up a semi-final clash with United. Mourinho will have knowledge of the Spanish side from his management career with Real Madrid, beating them 2-0 and 2-1 during the 2012/13 La Liga season. The team will be much different in those five years, but he will still have an idea how they intend to play against United in seemingly their biggest match of the season.

Celta Vigo are in good form in Europe this season, unbeaten in their last five matches, winning four and drawing one. United have met Spanish opposition in a European semi-final on three occasions, winning on two – going onto lift the cup on both occasions. The omens might be there for United to earn their first European final since 2011, which would certainly be an achievement, even though this is in Europe’s secondary competition. The fact the winners will play in the UEFA Champions League next season will be good enough for many.

Match Officials:

Sergei Karasev will officiate the match between Celta Viga and Manchester United. The Russian referee has been in charge of four UEFA Champions League matches and one Europa League match (this will be his second), this season, showing a total of 17 yellow cards, no red cards yet. The assistant referees will be Anton Averianov and Tikhon Kalugin. The additional assistant referees will be Sergei Lapochkin and Sergei Ivanov. The fourth official will be Igor Demeshko. All the match officials are from Russia.

Form:

Manchester United: Manchester United’s season may not have been the best one recently, but it is far from the worst. One major trophy in the bag, another one still an option and top four still within reach, despite the chances that have been granted to United, which they have not taken the majority of the time. In the Premier League, United sit in fifth place, a point behind Manchester City, the only likely team to fall outside the top four if United challenge them. Beating Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will be needed to do that, though, which may be tough. Earning UEFA Champions League football may lie with victory in the Europa League in Sweden at the end of the month, should they get that far.

Celta Vigo: Celta Vigo sit in eleventh place in La Liga this season, so earning a place in Europe next season lies near enough impossible for them so this semi-final will be their wild card for participation in Europe’s elite competition next season, against all the odds. They may not be one of the best teams in Spain this season, but they have been impressive at times. United will need to keep their eyes on their opposition, ensuring they stop attacks and are not thwarted in their own. If United want victory, they will go for it, but the same will be said for the Spanish side. By the end of next week, we will know if United have a seventh match this month, or whether their Champions League participation rests on them finishing in the top four in the Premier League.

Who are the top scorers at both Manchester United and Celta Vigo this season?

Manchester United: 28 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 11 – Marcus Rashford, 10 – Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 8 – Anthony Martial, 7 – Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney, 5 – Jesse Lingard, 3 – Marouane Fellaini, 2 – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia

Celta Vigo: 18 – Iago Aspas, 4 – Giuseppe Rossi, 3 – John Guidetti, Pione Sisto, Daniel Wass, 2 – Gustavo Cabral, Jozabed, Hugo Mallo, Fabian Orellana, Facundo Roncaglia, 1 – Claudio Beauvue, Theo Bongonda, Pape Cheikh, Marcelo Diaz, Pablo Hernandez, Alvaro Lemos, Nemanja Radoja

Team News:

Manchester United have an injury dilemma with many on the sidelines through injury. Eric Bailly is a doubt, his injury not yet being confirmed, but Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all look set to miss this match in Spain. Marouane Fellaini, suspended in domestic competition, will be eligible to play in the Europa League, so along with Paul Pogba, there will be another option in midfield to save the fatigue of Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera with a view ahead to the Arsenal match in the Premier League on Sunday. Former United forward Giuseppe Rossi will miss out through a cruciate ligament injury, with Rubén Blanco and Carles Planas both set to miss out also. On Wednesday morninh, United were handed an injury boost with Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all returning to training. It is not yet know if the trio will travel to Spain.

Previous Meetings: United and Celta yet to meet but Spanish opposition has been hit and miss for United.

Manchester United and Celta Vigo have never met in a competitive match in the history of both clubs. United and Celta have faced clubs from each other’s countries though. United last played Spanish opposition in the UEFA Champions League with Real Sociedad drawn in United’s group; drawing 0-0 in San Sebastian and winning 1-0 at Old Trafford, through an own goal. Celta last faced English opposition 11 years ago against Newcastle United, losing 2-1 in the UEFA Cup. United have obviously faced Real Madrid, Athletic Club, Barcelona, Valencia, Villarreal and RC Deportivo La Coruña over the years, some successful and other not so.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Celta Vigo?

Predicted Score:

Celta Vigo 1-3 Manchester United

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