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Preview: Poor pitch standing in the way of a Manchester United victory in Russia?

FC Rostov v Manchester United

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Stadion Olimp-2, Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Thursday 9th March 2017; KO 18:00 GMT

Live on BT Sport

Manchester United go back to the drawing board on Thursday evening and will have to beat an in-form Russian side to ensure they have a good chance of remaining in the UEFA Europa League this season. United participated in the Europa League last season, playing Liverpool at the same stage a year ago, being knocked out and Liverpool heading to the final and losing. FC Rostov beat Tom Tomsk in the Russia Premier League 6-0 at the weekend, which has earned them some praise ahead of the visit of Manchester United, which could well be one of the biggest matches they have played at home. United only managed a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth in their last match, an ill-tempered match which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tyrone Mings facing retrospective action and being suspended for three and five matches respectively. Ibrahimovic is eligible to play in the Europa League, though missing the matches against Chelsea, Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.

Rostov started the season in the UEFA Champions League, being drawn in a group which consisted Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and PSV Eindhoven. The Russian side were beaten twice by Atletico, won and lost against Bayern and drew twice with PSV. To get into the Champions League proper, Rostov had to beat both Anderlecht and Ajax in the qualification stages. The victory over Bayern will probably inspire the Russian’s to get a good result at home against United, who will be seen as just as big a task, despite Mourinho’s side not yet firing on all cylinders. United have been much better this season than they have in the last three, already matching the trophy won by Louis van Gaal, with two still to play for this season, should result go in the Devils’ favour. A win in Russia may not be a great feat by all accounts, but with the Europa League the only likely outcome for United to play in the Champions League next season, with United league position still being outside the qualification ranks, putting all your money on winning the Europa League will be the biggest gamble this season.

The state of the pitch will be something that is bound to be mentioned between now and kick off on Thursday evening. Jose Mourinho has had his say on the state of it during his press conference on Wednesday and UEFA have stated the match will still be played. Mourinho was told that his players are insured, so they are covered for any injuries that may be sustained. Hopefully, it is not as bad as that as the matches United have in the coming weeks will need the best players to ensure the results are the ones United want. Injuries at this stage of the season will be costly, aside of the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is banned for the next three domestic matches away to Chelsea (Emirates FA Cup), Middlesbrough (Premier League) and at home to West Bromwich Albion (Premier League). The visit of Everton to the Theatre of Dreams will be the next domestic match the Swede will play for his club.

Match Officials:

The referee for this match will be Felix Zwayer. His assistants are Thorsten Schiffner and Marco Achmüller. The fourth official is Jan Seidel and the additional assistant referees are Marco Fritz and Patrick Ittrich. All of the officials for the match are from Germany.

Form:

Manchester United – WWWWD: Jose Mourinho’s side has not been doing too badly in all competitions this season. Their last defeat in the Premier League was against Chelsea back in October. United have lost to Hull City in recent months in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg, but they had already done enough to get into the final, in which the beat Southampton at Wembley to lift the cup. In the Europa League this season, aside from the group stage, United are yet to be defeated, which is a good sign at this stage of the competition, but it could still be on the cards for Mourinho’s side.

FC Rostov – DDWDW: The Russian side have been involved in a winter break; last playing a Russian Premier League match in early December – aside from the 6-0 thrashing of Tom Tomsk at the weekend, the first match back after the break. Rostov have, though, been playing in the UEFA Europa League; one match in December and two in February, which has given them a better fitness rate, especially ahead of their Russian opposition at the weekend. United could find themselves an easy match on Thursday evening, or it could well be a polar opposite. In Russia though, United do have some good form. Rostov sits fifth in the Premier League in Russia and are unbeaten at home this season.

Team News:

Eric Bailly is suspended for this match after earning a yellow card against Saint-Etienne – he got another a  few minutes later and was sent off, meaning he is still one yellow card away from another suspension, should he play at Old Trafford next week. Bastian Schweinsteiger was out of the Bournemouth match with a small injury, seemingly keeping him out of this match. Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw have not travelled to Russia either, with the captain presumably being rested to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, and Shaw possible carrying an injury from the Bournemouth match and Mourinho not wanting to risk him. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has travelled to Russia, so could play a part in this match, on a dodgy pitch. Rostov will be without goalkeeper Soslan Dzhanaev through injury, but aside of that, they are at full strength, something United may well be at too, for the European matches at least.

Previous Meetings:

Manchester United and FC Rostov have never met in any competition before, but against Russian teams, United do have a history of playing the likes of CSKA Moscow, Torpedo Moscow, and Zenit St. Petersburg. Last season was United’s last trip to Russia, playing CSKA Moscow in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, drawing 1-1 in Russia and winning 1-0 at Old Trafford. In 1992 United lost to Torpedo Moscow, on penalties. In 90 minutes, Zenit were the only Russian side to beat United in the UEFA Super Cup back in 2008.

Starting XI Prediction:

Score Prediction:

FC Rostov 0-2 Manchester United

Written by Mike Wilson

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