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Closing the deal
Manchester United are looking to move a step closer to winning the Europa League on Thursday when they host Granada from Old Trafford.
Heading into the second leg of that quarter-final, United has a comfortable two-goal lead after winning the opening leg 2-0 in Spain last week.
It will be an uphill battle for Granada to upset the Reds, knowing they need to win by two goals on the road to guarantee passage into the final four.
A win or draw for the Reds would put them just two steps away from winning their first trophy since 2016-17 when they won the Europa League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be missing several key players heading into Thursday’s pivotal match.
Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, and captain Harry Maguire are all suspended after each receiving a caution in the opening match between these sides last week.
Alex Telles is likely to draw into the lineup in Shaw’s place.
After testing positive for COVID while on international duty with the Ivory Coast, Eric Bailly remains unavailable for the Reds.
Axel Tuanzebe should start in central defence alongside Victor Lindelof.
David de Gea picked up a clean sheet in the first leg of this tie, but Dean Henderson played over the weekend in a 3-1 win over Tottenham, so we’ll have to wait and see who Solskjaer decides to play on Thursday.
Marcus Rashford is doubtful while fellow striker Anthony Martial is out along with Phil Jones.
Daniel James won’t play this game after sustaining an injury against Spurs.
For Granada, Domingos Duarte will miss Thursday’s match through suspension but might not have played anyway after leaving the opening leg with an injury.
Yan Brice Eteki is also out through suspension.
Neydor Lozano and Luis Milla could both miss due to injuries, while Alberto Soro’s status is up in the air.
Striker Roberto Soldado missed his team’s 2-1 win at Valladolid on Sunday and may not be available for this game.
Trailing by two goals and playing on the road does not bode well for Diego Martinez’s team heading into Old Trafford.
Under the competition’s latest format (since 2009), only one side has ever progressed from a knockout tie after losing the opening leg by two home goals.
The Europa League’s most deocarated side Sevilla pulled off that comeback, beating Real Betis on penalties in 2013-14 and eventually winning their third Europa League title at that time.
Unlike their opponents, Granada are not as great at coming back in games when trailing.
Los Nazaries have conceded the opening goal in their last five matches in all competitions and lost on four occasions.
They did, however, win last weekend in La Liga after conceding the opening goal just before half-time against Valladolid.
When we look at the stats sheet for Man United, you’ll notice they’ve had their struggles at Old Trafford not only in the Premier League but in Europe as well.
After winning seven consecutive home matches in European competition, the Reds have gone winless in their last three European fixtures.
That’s the longest they’ve gone without winning at home in Europe since October 2018, when they also went winless in three matches at home.
Spanish sides, in particular, have had a lot of success playing at Old Trafford.
Teams from Spain have lost only one of their last ten visits to United’s home ground.
Granada is the 11th Spanish team to play on the road against Manchester United in a European competition.
In good company
Man United’s Marcus Rashford has flourished in European matches this season.
The Manchester-born striker has eight goals in 10 matches in European competition this campaign.
If you exclude the qualifiers, that is the most goals by a Man United player in a single European campaign since Cristiano Ronaldo netted eight times in 2007-08 when the Reds won the Champions League.
Ruud van Nistelrooy was the last player to score more in a European season for United back in 2003-04 when he found the back of the net 12 times.
Finding an Answer
One thing Granada has done well at this season is bouncing back after a harsh result.
Six times this season, Los Nazaries have won their next competitive match following a loss.
That includes last weekend when they scored two goals in eight minutes to beat Valladolid 2-1.
Despite holding a 2-0 advantage heading into this leg, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his team has no intention of sitting back in this game.
“You know, we’ve got a great foundation to play from and a good result, but we go into this game wanting to win the game. We want to play a good game and perform well. We know that Granada will come here and give it everything they’ve got, so we have to go out there, try to dominate the ball, score goals like we always want to do and keep carrying on. The momentum is big in football, and if it goes for you, it goes for you, so we just want to carry on there, and hopefully, the players will enjoy the game.”
Thursday’s match from Old Trafford gets underway at 8 pm.
A win, draw, or any one-goal defeat would see United through to the semi-finals.
If Granada wants to progress, they need a victory by at least two goals. (JSL).