Key Battles: Paul Pogba looking to make his mark against Celta


Manchester United commence their European adventure in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening, playing Celta Vigo for the very first time in a competitive match. United have not had the greatest season under Jose Mourinho, but it has been better than the past three with United winning the FA Community Shield at the start of the season and then the EFL Cup just over two months ago. United may not yet be guaranteed UEFA Champions League football, which is what they need to be aiming for, but they still have two options, one of which could be furthered with an away victory against the Spanish side whose form is questionable at this stage of the season. United have a 25-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, losing three league matches all season, the last back in October. Mourinho’s United may be suffering countless injuries, but his side will dig deep and aim to reach the promised land in Sweden on the 24th May 2017. There will be key battles against Celta Vigo on Thursday, three of which can be found here…

Daley Blind -v- John Guidetti

The Dutchman might be the only experienced recognised central defender on Thursday evening with Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling all likely out of action, although nothing has been confirmed regarding Bailly, who could be part of the travelling squad on Wednesday. Blind could partner either Axel Tuanzebe or even Matteo Darmian in the centre of defence against the Spanish side, which would be a makeshift back four, but one which could still work well for Mourinho’s side. Blind has had a good season, his recent partnership with Bailly has been a good one, despite the draws which seem to be happening too many times this season. In the Premier League, Blind has made 22 appearances, scoring one goal. He has created 25 chances for his teammates, having a 50% shot accuracy, which is not that bad for a player of his calibre. His passing rate is good, successfully making 87% of all passes, an average length of 19 metres. Blind makes on average seven defensive actions per match, which is to be expected of a player in his position and is yet to make a defensive error in the league. Facing Blind could well be former Manchester City striker John Guidetti who has made 20 appearances in La Liga this season, scoring three goals. Guidetti has created 12 chances for his teammates, passing successfully 72% of the time. He may not be the best player to go against United’s defence this season, but he could be one who makes United suffer, especially if they do not keep ahead of their game which has been the case in other matches in the Europa League this season.

Paul Pogba -v- Theo Bongonda

Paul Pogba has been missing since the last two matches due to an injury sustained in the last-minute of the 2-0 victory over Burnley just over a week ago, and boy has he been missed. The Frenchman, who despite many supporters saying he has not improved the team this season, even though he has made his mark in matches, will be raring to go. Pogba has played 20 times in the Premier League this season, scoring four goals, which may not be the biggest tally, but doing what he does in midfield is more than enough. When he is playing in his favoured position in a three-man midfield, it may work even better for him. Pogba has an 85% successful passing rate, which is great, passing on average 17 metres in the league. His shooting accuracy is only 41%, but he’s not a striker and will not guarantee goals. He averages three defensive actions per match and has made one defensive error this season. Pogba could be tasked with keeping an eye on Theo Bongonda, who has suggested playing for United might be something he would like to do in the future, providing he is good enough, Bongonda has 28 appearances in La Liga this season, scoring just one goal. He has created 18 chances for his teammates, though. His passing rate is just 78% which is a weakness compared to some of United’s players, so he could be a player Pogba or even Ander Herrera manipulates to make Celta’s side much weaker.

Anthony Martial -v- Nemanja Radoja

Anthony Martial is a player rising in the trust levels with Jose Mourinho this season, especially after being given more of a chance after the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which ended his season and saw him go under the knife, successfully, which is a good thing. Martial had a great season under Louis van Gaal, scoring the goals needed to better United’s season and generally providing some excitement, which was lacking during those two years. This season, Martial has been a different player, but off the field he has had some problems to deal with, which may be the root cause. Recently, he has been lively and seems to be on his way back to his best. Martial has played in 21 league matches this season, scoring four goals. His passing is good with 82% reaching a teammate. Hos shot accuracy is better than some forwards out there with 63% being on target, which could suggest he will help his team to pick the Spanish team apart, which would be long overdue and well received at this stage of the season with Champions league football looking a distant prospect – with United still in with two chances of achieving their ambition, preferably with another trophy bagged in Sweden. Martial may be marked by Nemanja Radoja, a central defensive midfielder, who could try and keep him out of the game. Radoja has 31 appearances in La Liga under his belt this season, scoring one goal. He has created nine chances for his teammates, has a shot accuracy of 67% and his passing reaches a teammate 86% of the time. Radoja could be an ideal replacement to replace Michael Carrick in the summer, so if he impresses, he could be scouted for that role in this match or at Old Trafford, which might be beneficial for him. The Serbian averages three defensive actions per match in La Liga, which is not bad for a midfielder.

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