After a disappointing 1-1 against Swansea City at Old Trafford last weekend dealt a major blow to Manchester United‘s prospects of a top four finish, José Mourinho is ready to put all of his Champions League qualification eggs into his Europa League basket.
The Red Devils take on Celta Vigo at Balaídos tonight in the first leg of their semi-final encounter. After seeing his squad decimated by injuries in recent weeks, Mourinho will be buoyed by the return to fitness of Paul Pogba, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata, while the knock that forced Eric Bailly off against the Swans appears to have not been serious.
Celta currently sit 11th in La Liga, but their position is somewhat misleading as manager Eduardo Berizzo has been prioritising their European campaign for some time. Having already beaten Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, the Spanish side are more than capable of upsetting the odds.
United will have to be at their best to come away with a positive result tonight, and here's how our algorithm thinks they'll line up.
Manchester United Predicted Line-up vs. Celta Vigo
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Mourinho's biggest decision ahead of tonight's game is over how many of his returning players does he play from the start.
Pogba's presence in midfield has been sorely missed recently with United struggling to create chances in the draws with Manchester City and Swansea; there's a strong chance that the world's most expensive player will be brought right back into the side.
But Bailly, Mata, Smalling and Jones are unlikely to all start, as the Portuguese coach will want to exercise degree of caution rather than risk re-injury. With that in mind, Daley Blind could be deployed once more in central defence.
As Ajax showed last night with their emphatic 4-1 dismantling of Lyon, no team remaining in the Europa League at the stage can be underestimated. With former Liverpool flop Iago Aspas in outstanding form for Celta, and ex-Manchester City youngster John Guidetti a threat with his pace up front, this will be no walk in the park for the Red Devils.
There is another player in Celta's ranks who will be familiar to United supporters, too: winger Pione Sisto scored against Louis van Gaal's side in both legs of their Europa League tie with unfancied FC Midtjylland last season.
United are favourites to progress to the final in Stockholm and lift the trophy for the first time in the club's history, though. If they play to their full potential over both legs against Celta, the Red Devils should be too much to handle for the Spanish outfit.
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