Thursday night European football is not always the most glamorous, yet the Europa League has thrown up some wonderful and fiery clashes over the past few years. This year has been no different and as we move to the quarter-final stage of the competition, the excitement to see who wins the tournament is increasing day by day.
One of the eagerly awaited clashes is between Manchester United and La Liga club Granada CF as the English club travel to Spain on Thursday to face the Spanish club for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. This is the 2nd Spanish club they will be facing this season, and the 11th different Spanish side in a major European competition. Having defeated Real Sociedad in the round of 32 of this season’s Europa League, they will be gearing up to get past yet another La Liga club.
Granada, who are in their first-ever European club competition, will be looking to cause a huge upset and go as deep as they can into the competition. The club that currently sits 9th in the La Liga are not in the best of forms, with just two wins in the last 6 games. They defeated United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former club Molde in the round of 16 to progress to the quarter-finals. Although they lost the second league 2-1, they progressed to the next round with an aggregate score of 3-2. The club will be looking to break their 3-game losing run, which includes a 0-3 loss to Villareal on Saturday and get a stronghold over the tie on Thursday.
Manchester United won the weekend game against Brighton and Hove Albion after coming back from a goal down with a strong second-half display. The English giants have only lost once in 17 games in all competitions. They haven’t lost in Europe since the 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig in December in the UCL and are clear favourites going into this tie. Many expect the Red Devils to win the competition with the quality and strength they have. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to get as many away goals as he can on Thursday, given Granada’s defensive woes and will be hoping to put the tie to bed in the first leg itself.
Granada manager will be without the forward Luis Suarez, who is out with a muscle injury and is expected back on 14th April, and central midfielder Luis Milla who has been out with a long-term injury. Spanish defender Quini is ineligible for this tie. Chelsea loanee Kennedy and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Roberto Soldado are expected to start against the Red Devils.
Manchester United manager Solskjaer will have a full-strength squad at his disposal, with the exception of Anthony Martial who is expected to miss out on the rest of the season with a knee injury, although the Norwegian is hopeful of the striker returning in 3 weeks time. Marcus Rashford limped out of the weekend tie against Brighton and is a doubt for the game. Eric Bailly tested positive for COVID-19 and is expected to miss out for two weeks.
David de Gea could return to the starting lineup for the first time since 28th February. Juan Mata and Phil Jones are ruled out with long-term injuries.
Granda XI: Rui Silva; Victor Diaz, Domingos Duarte, Nehuén Pérez, Foulquier; Brice, Gonalons; Antonio Puertas, Soldado, Kenedy; Molina.
Manchester United XI: David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek; Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba; Edinson Cavani.