Two continental giants Manchester United and AC Milan square off at Old Trafford. It is a heavyweight clash in their Europa league Knockout stages. Both teams seeking silverware in Europe as they trail to local rivals domestically. They have been placed in a similar fashion in their domestic leagues as both United and Milan sit 2nd in the points table of EPL and Serie A respectively. The Red Devils are 11 points behind Man City in the pole position. While their counterpart’s AC Milan are only 6 points behind Inter in the table. More accustomed to going head-to-head at the elite level. This massive last-16 tie pits together a pair of once-dominant clubs, now edging closer to former glories under unfashionable but effective management.
Why you should be watching
The match is going to be a very interesting one to watch. The similarity in form and current pedigree of these two teams spicing it up even more. The first leg will be important for the Red Devils at their home Old Trafford. They will bank on home advantage to gain a much-needed lead in the match. Milan will also be looking to score away goals to ease the burden off them in their return leg. Football fans will surely don’t want to miss this high voltage fixture of the Europa League.
The Red Devils will be high on confidence coming into this last-8 clash. As they beat League leaders and high-flying Man City 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium. A Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty and a sublime Luke Shaw strike sealed the deal for United in that match. Anthony Martial was in great touch in that clash earning a penalty for his side and also being quite a deadly upfront. Now unbeaten in 17 consecutive games since the end of January and still basking in the glow of victory in the Manchester derby. The hosts will also have history on their side, as they have won four of their previous five games versus Milan on home soil. They would also take determination from the 4-0 demolition of Real Sociedad in their last-16 clash of the Europa League. This will give them much-needed hope to win against the Italian side.
FORM GUIDE:- WDDDW
The Rossoneri are playing this fixture on the back of a comfortable 2-0 win over Hellas Verona in the last weekend. Left Back Diego Dalot and forward Rade Kruniç chipped in with important goals to give the Milan-based side an excellent win. The injuries have forced Milan to look a bit off-color as they have also drawn 1-1 to Udinese previously. Their only inspiration will come from the fact that they have beaten AS Roma last to last game week at their home ground quite dominantly with their in-form midfielder Kessie also starring in the match as always. If Milan is to win this match and keep their European hopes alive, they have to come all out firing in every position including the crucial midfield battle of Kessie and Tonali with Fred and Mctominay.
Form Guide:- LDWDW
Head to Head
The two teams have faced each other 10 times in the European circuit. The result is even stevens with both teams notching up 5 wins apiece before going into this encounter. There have been no draws between the two teams, which says a lot about this fixture. Thursday’s fixture will be the first time they have faced each other since 2010.
The Red Devils will be playing this Europa League clash with pretty much confusion regarding the injuries of several key players. Marcus Rashford limped off early during Sunday’s Manchester derby 2-0 win with an ankle injury . Solskjaer was quite uncertain about his availability in the Milan game. The Uruguayan Edinson Cavani also missed the previous top-of-the-table clash after aggravating an injury in training last week and is expected to sit out of Thursday’s game. Donny Van de Beek has not featured in United’s last five matches and will skip this too due to his injury.
Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Phil Jones are all set to miss the clash with the Rossoneri’s. United’s first-choice goalkeeper, David De Gea, is reportedly still in Spain with his wife following the birth of his first child and this is set to miss the game. This opens the door for Dean Henderson to show a solid performance again in between the two sticks after three consecutive clean sheets stretching back from the Real Sociedad game.
The Rossoneri’s are coming in this Europa clash against United with much to ponder about their starting XI. Most of their first-team players are injured and will not be available for this crucial fixture. Stefan Pioli will miss the services of his in-form Swedish striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovich. There has been some speculation of a miraculous return to action for their star striker, but his chances of a glorious return seem slim. The standout man for Milan this season with 7 goals and 10 assists in the league Halkan Calhanoglu will also not be available for this clash.
Theo Hernandez, Ante Rebiç will be watching from the dugout on Thursday night. Besides these mainstays, Mario Mandzukic and Ismael Bennacer are also out for the game. Madrid loanee Brahim Diaz and Daniel Maldini finish the list of the injured players for Milan in the match. Pioli would have to select his starting XI out of the limited resources that he would have in hand.
There may not be any significant changes from the side that beat Man City 2-0 with Mason Greenwood only the possible change coming in for the injured Marcus Rashford. Alex Telles and Eric Bailly may also have a slim chance to replace Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof in defense if Solskjaer prefers them.
Stefan Pioli is set to ring in only two changes from the side that beat Verona 2-0 in their home ground. Simon Kjaer is set to come in place of Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali in place of Soualiho Meitè in defense and central midfield respectively. Other than this, Pioli is expected to stick to the same squad in this match.
Ones to watch out for
The consistent man for United. Mr. Dependable Bruno Fernandes has been in sensational form this season having stunning 40 goal involvements out of United’s 41. He is definitely the fulcrum of this Man U attack and is a nightmare for opposition defenders. Due to his excellent creativity, inch-perfect assists, and eye-catching goals. He already has 23 goals and 12 assists in his kitty and will look to increase it against Milan.
The Englishman has found form in the Red Devil’s Jersey of late. Now he will be renewing his bid to be world-class at his position. He already has given 6 assists this season and that awesome goal against Man City in the previous encounter. He will be again United’s key man when they face the Rossoneri’s.
Undoubtedly, Kessie has been the standout man for Milan this season. He has been a beast in the midfield with his consistent performances. Kessie has found the back of the net 9 times this season for them along with his 2 assists. He would be a key man for the Red and Blacks in the midfield with his duel against Mctominay could prove a match-deciding one.
The Portuguese has been the main player of the Rossoneri’s upfront after their Swede talismanic striker. He has chipped in with 6 goals along with 5 assists this season. In the absence of Rebiç and Ibrahimovich, the onus will be on Leão to deliver with the goals upfront for Milan.
Rejuvenated by their weekend derby success against Man City will provide the Red Devils with the much-needed confidence against the Rossoneri’s. But don’t forget that Milan are also in great form this season and has the potential to upset United at their home ground and gain advantage going into the second leg.
We expect a fascinating clash to take place between these two teams. Who shall gain the upper hand in the first leg of this mighty clash?
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