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Preview: Manchester United must score against Granada, who have beaten both Napoli and Molde, shutting the defensive door at home

Granada CF -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, Granada

Thursday 8 April 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Artur Dias Assistants: Rui Tavares, Paulo Soares

Fourth Official: Tiago Martins

VAR: João Pinheiro Assistant VAR: Luis Godinho

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they face Granada CF at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, which will be the first time both teams have met in European competition. United reached the quarter-final stage of the completion this season by beating both Real Sociedad (4-0 on aggregate) and AC Milan (2-1 on aggregate) after falling from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League at the end of 2020. Granada came through the qualification stages and the group stage beating Napoli and Molde with the same 3-2 on aggregate scorelines.

Granada seem to be a different team in competitions than they are in La Liga, sitting in ninth place currently and unlikely to feature in European competition next season because of this. However, as they have beaten both Napoli and Molde, both 2-0 scorelines at home in the last two knockout rounds, losing 2-1 away from home and still reaching the next round, they will be seen as the team to beat, which could be an uncertain match for United as they tend to struggle against teams they should beat easily. Hopefully this is different as United are seen as the favourites to win the competition this season.

Manchester United: WLWWDW

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W, Leicester City 3-1 L, AC Milan 1-0 W, West Ham United 1-0 W, AC Milan 1-1 D, Manchester City 2-0 W

Granada CF: LLLWWL

Villarreal CF 3-0 L, Valencia CF 2-1 L, Molde FK 2-1 L, Real Sociedad 1-0 W, Molde FK 2-0 W, Athletic Club 2-1 L

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have nearly scored as many goals as Granada have this season. United need to find away goals inn this match with the return leg at Old Trafford.

Manchester United Goals: 23 – Bruno Fernandes, 19 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 6 – Mason Greenwood, 5 – Daniel James, Paul Pogba, 3 – Own Goal, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

United have been beaten once in the last six matches, winning four, drawing one and losing one. Solskjaer’s side have scored eight goals, conceded three and kept three clean sheets. The goals have dried up since February, when 21 goals were scored across the month. In March, United only scored six goals with two scored so far in April. United’s injury problems are better now than they were in February and March although Anthony Martial looks to have played his last match this season, which is a shame for him. Solskjaer has seen his squad take advantage in the Premier League though which puts them in good stead this season as opposed to last.

Granada CF Goals: 8 – Roberto Soldado, 7 – Luis Suárez, 6 – Jorge Molina, 5 – Yangel Herrera, 4 – Kenedy, Darwin Machís, 3 – Germán Sánchez, 2 – Ángel Montoro, Domingos Quina, Alberto Soro, 1 – Domingos Duarte, Luis Milla, Antonio Puertas

Granada do not seem to be having a good domestic season. They exited the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage and currently sit ninth in La Liga. In the past six matches, they have won twice and lost four times, scoring six goals, conceding nine and keeping two clean sheets. It seems unlikely that they will qualify for European competition next season – shutting ten points adrift of the Europa Conference League place (sixth) and the Europa League qualification round place (fifth) and their goal difference is only going to hold them back, plus the fact they still have to play Barcelona and Real Madrid again this season, amongst others.

Team News: Anthony Elanga named in Europa League squad with United short of attacking players this season. Two players to miss out for Granada?

Phil Jones (knee), Anthony Martial (knee) and Eric Bailly (coronavirus) have all been ruled out of the trip to Spain to face Granada on Tuesday evening. Marcus Rashford (ankle/foot) has a 50% chance of being available for this match despite playing against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday. Solskjaer has called up U23 forward Anthony Elanga for this match, who has eight goals and three assists at U21/U23 level the season, but has spent time out of action due to a collarbone injury, which he seems to have now recovered from. Juan Mata is back in training Amad Diallo could also prove positive in this match, which would be good for him and United.

Luis Milla (muscle) and Luis Suárez (muscle) both seem to be out of action for the visit of United in the first leg of the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Europa League this season. Two players; Quini and Neyder Lozano are ineligible to play in the Europa League having not been named in the squad for the competition this season. This match will be an unknown for both teams as they have never met each other competitively. In the last two knockout rounds Granada have knocked out Napoli and Molde with the same scorelines; a 2-0 win at home and 2-1 defeats away from him, winning with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Predicted Starting XI: Daniel James, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood to spearhead United’s attack in rare 4-3-3 formation which has Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba in the midfield?

Solskjaer has the chance ti rest some players for the match against Granada, keeping in mind the trip to face Tottenham Hotspur in London on Sunday, which will require a fresh side with the North London club out of European competition at this stage of the season. Daniel James, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood could launch the attack inn a 4-3-3 formation with Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba in midfield. In defence, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could do the job needed with Dean Henderson continuing in goal, as he has done in this competition this season.

Match Prediction: United and Granada will meet for the first time on Thursday evening – it will also be the first time Granada has played a competitive match against an English club.

United and Granada have not yet met in any European competition so Thursday’s match will be the first and also the first time United have played at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes. Granada have not yet faced any English opposition in European competition either, so in a week’s time, it will be their first time playing a competitive match at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beat Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season, winning 4-0 in the first leg and drawing 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match with the competition being delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic which raged around the world. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition, facing Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 59 times against Spanish opposition, winning 14, drawing 23 and losing 22 – scoring 69 goals and conceding 80.

Granada CF 0-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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