Tuesday 20 February 2018

Match preview: Sevilla v United

United will welcome four players back into the fold as we head to Andalucia for a first ever competitive meeting with Vincenzo Montella's dangerous Sevilla side. Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Paul Pogba all missed the FA Cup win at Huddersfield, but the quartet are expected to feature in the first leg of this daunting tie at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan. Eric Bailly, fresh from his (very) late cameo against the Terriers, could make his 50th appearance for the club. However Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are sidelined. This is United's first knockout tie in Europe's elite competition since 2013, with the return leg to be played at Old Trafford on 13 March.

The bar has been set high by the other English team in the last 16, with resounding wins for Liverpool and Manchester City - 5-0 at Porto and 4-0 in Basel respectively - and creditable draws for Tottenham and Chelsea with heavyweight duo Juventus and Barcelona. Your move United.... In form Sevilla, however, represent a significant step up in quality from anything we've faced so far in this tournament, with the five time UEFA Cup/Europa League winners targeting a  spot in the last eight for only the second time ever. More famously known for their impressive expoits in Europe's second tier tournament, this is their sixth Champions League season. Spearheaded by 17-goal top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder and string-puller in chief Ever Banega,  Montella's Sevilla boast grit and guile in equal measure, with metronomic midfielder Steven N'Zonzi  and ex City man Jesus Navas a familiar presence to English fans.

Banega, Joaquin Correa and club record signing Luis Muriel are all expected to be fit after suffering minor knocks, but right-back Sebastien Corchia is doubtful. The side from southern Spain won the Europa League in three successive seasons - deposed by United last term - have endured a transitional season during which they've been inconsistent. They've reached the Copa del Rey final but sit fifth in La Liga. 
Jose said: "I normally say that the Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals, not yet in the last 16. Last 16 looks a long way to go but when a team reaches the last eight, I think it's the moment when even the teams who are not favourites - which is our case - start realising that anything is possible.
"For the moment, we have to focus on the very difficult opponent that we have, Sevilla, and the first match of this  two-legged knockout tie. It does not decide anything but is very important."

The Reds have never faced the side from Andalusia in a competitive game before - they will therefore become our 220th official opponents. We have, however, faced the Spanish side in a couple of Old Trafford friendlies - in Rio Ferdinand's testimonial (1-3) and a 3-0 win against the then UEFA Cup holders in 2006 also at OT.  

Form guide: Sevilla D D L W W W United W W L W L W 
Match odds: Sevilla 11/5 Draw 9/4 United 7/5
Referee: The wonderfully named French official Clement Turpin takes charge of his first ever United game. 

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