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Preview: Manchester United v Granada – Europa League; semi-final or bust

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Manchester United -v- Granada

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 15 April 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: István Kovács  Assistants: Vasile Florin Marinescu, Ovidiu Artene

Fourth Official: Sandro Schärer

VAR: Bastian Dankert Assistant VAR: Pawel Gil

Manchester United will return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they welcome Granada to Old Trafford for the very first time. United beat the Spanish side 2-0 last Thursday in the quarter-final first leg of the competition and hold the advantage in this match. United will be boosted by their victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. It was a controversial match with United taking the lead early but the goal was ruled out. Son Hueng-Min eventually scored with United coming from behind to score three goals. In coming from behind, United have now earned 28 points in the Premier League, 12 more than any other club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a foot in the door to the semi-final of the competition this season. The draw has already been made and they will face either AS Roma or Ajax, with the Italian side having the advantage with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. United reached the semi-final of the Europa League last season, losing to Sevilla, who were knocked out of the Champions League. United should be seen as the favourites to win the competition this season. Diego Martínez’s side are also boosted after beating Real Valladolid 2-1 on Sunday. This was their first win in four matches, with the club losing four in a row.

Manchester United: WWWLWW

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 W, Granada CF 2-0 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W, Leicester City 3-1 L, AC Milan 1-0 W, West Ham United 1-0 W

Granada: WLLLLW

Real Valladolid 2-1 W, Manchester United 2-0 L, Villarreal CF 3-0 L, Valencia CF 2-1 L, Molde FK 2-1 L, Real Sociedad 1-0 W

Top Scorers: United have scored 97 goals in all competitions this season with Granada scoring 48 goals in all competitions.

Manchester United Goals: 24 – Bruno Fernandes, 20 – Marcus Rashford, 8 – Edinson Cavani, 7 – Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, Paul Pogba, 3 – Own Goal, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

In the past six matches, United have won five and lost one. Solskjaer’s side have scored 10 goals, conceded five and kept three clean sheets. United have improved across the course of the season. That should not be debated. In the Premier League, they are three points adrift of the points they amassed last season. They have seven matched left to play. Granted, the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup are not competitions they can win this season. However, the Europa League is a competition they have thrived in, even in bad form with injuries. United can win matches playing badly, which was the case under Sir Alex Ferguson all them years ago.

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

Granada have been a poor side in their last six matches. They have won twice and lost four times, which is terrible form. They have scored five goals, conceded 10 goals, keeping one clean sheet. They sit eighth in La Liga and do not look likely to earn a place in a European competition next season – which I am sure they understand. Losing four matches in a row will have been a tough blow but beating Real Valladolid on Sunday could give them confidence. This will be the first time they have played at Old Trafford so that may inspire them. United will need to keep their heads in this match without some key players.

Team News: United have three players suspended and three more ruled out of Thursday’s match.

Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are suspended for this match after receiving too many bookings in the competition. Phil Jones and Anthony Martial (both knee) and Eric Bailly (coronavirus) look set to be ruled out, although Bailly is due in Manchester this week. Daniel James has a 50% chance of being available after receiving an injury against Granada last week, which also kept him out of the Spurs victory. United could be forced to change their formation or start some fringe players in this match, but they should have enough in their locker to win this match.

Luis Milla (muscle) is the only real injury for Granada ahead of their first trip to Manchester. Obviously, Quini and Neyder Lozano have not been included in the squad for the Europa League this season. Domingos Duarte and Yan Brice Eteki are both suspended. With two goals conceded in the last match between the two teams, United have their foot in the door to the semi-finals this season. However, a boost in confidence after winning their first game in five at the weekend could come at the right time for the Spanish side. Beating United might be tough but it is possible, especially when they have away goals in their favour.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani to keep his place leading the line for United after he inspired comeback against Spurs?

Solskjaer will be boosted with a points cushion in the Premier League and the fact United scored two goals away from home last week. This puts them in the driving seat to reach the semi-finals. Marcus Rashford should be rested, possible given some time off to get over his injury. United can cope without him. However, Edinson Cavani is a player that has shown his stuff for United, inspiring the victory over Spurs. He needs to keep his place in the team as he could be too much for Granada. Of course, the likes of Amad Diallo could also benefit from this match, needing some important minutes on the pitch.

Match Prediction: United need to remain on top as they face Granada on Thursday to reach the semi-finals

United and Granada have met once in the history of both club with United winning 2-0 last Thursday. This puts them in with a good chance of winning the tie. They will need to score a few goals at Old Trafford. Granada had not yet faced any English opposition in European competition before meeting United last week. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beating Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season. United won 4-0 in the first leg and drew 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate. If United win this match they will reach the semi-finals for the second season running.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match. The competition was delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition. The have faced Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 60 times against Spanish opposition. The have won 15, drawn 23 and lost 22 – scoring 71 goals and conceding 80.

Manchester United 2-0 Granada

Written by John Walker

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