Friday 21 April 2017

United face Spanish inquisition in Europa semi finals

United will face La Liga side Celta Vigo on the penultimate step of our Europa League journey after Thursday's extra time win over Anderlecht.

The Spanish team were the only side to not require extra-time in their quarter-final as they drew 1-1 with Genk of Belgium to complete a 3-2 aggregate win.

Lyon knocked out Besiktas in a dramatic penalty shootout and Ajax struck twice deep into extra-time to send them through at the expense of Schalke.

There are no easy matches in European competition, and especially not in a semi-final, but the tie with Celta is the most favourable we could've got.
United will be pleased to avoid the dangerous threats of Ajax and Lyon, who lock horns in the other last four tie, and the biggest test so far awaits in the final (should we get there). 

The first leg of the last four tie will be played at Celta's Balaidos Arena on May 4, with the return at Old Trafford set for a week later on the 11th. 

Like United, Celta have never won this competition but, unlike us, they have no major European pedigree to speak of - with only UEFA's minor Intertoto Cup in 2001.

In fact, Celta have led a nomadic existence and have never won the Spanish top division or the Copa del Rey (although they have been runners up three times). 

Celta qualified for this season's Europa League with a sixth placed league finish last term and have reached this stage via the runners up spot in their group.

Paired in the same group as fellow last-four foes Ajax, their only defeat came away in Amsterdam against the Dutch side.
Three draws left their qualification in the balance until the final round of matches, but having secured a runners up finish, they went on to knock out Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 32.

A slender 2-1 aggregate win saw them through to the last 16 where they despatched Krasnodar comfortably before that aforementioned narrow victory over Genk.

The club play their home games at the 29,000 capacity Balaidos in the "Cola" region of Spain, and are managed by Eduardo Berizzo. 

Their squad includes a few names that will be familiar to United fans.

Former Liverpool man Iago Aspas is now enjoying a renaissance at Celta and ex City, Stoke and Celtic forward John Guidetti is also among their alumnus.

Phone Sisto, who played against the Reds for Midtjylland last season, plies his trade with the club, who took the scalp of Barcelona earlier in the campaign. 

One one hurdle remains for United to reach the showpiece in Stockholm, so let battle commence...

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