Manchester United travel to Sevilla on Wednesday as they turn their attention to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against the Andalusian side. Sevilla are enjoying a fairly good run at the moment although they have coughed up shockers such as losing 5-1 to Eibar since the turn of the year. They knocked out Atletico Madrid and Leganes on their way to securing a spot in the Copa De Rey final. In La Liga, they sit fifth – six points behind fourth placed Real Madrid. United are in the second place in a Premier League that has been dominated by Manchester City this season. They are making their first Champions League knockout appearance in four years and they qualified as winners of Group A.
A Champions League title has eluded Jose Mourinho for seven years now. The last time he won it was with Inter in 2010 and before that, he extraordinarily led Porto the title in 2004. Having led United to the summit of the Europa League last season, he is chasing a second consecutive European title with the Red Devils. But the Old Trafford giants face a club that has built a taste for success in European tournaments over the past few years. Sevilla have won the Europa League five times, the most by any club in the history of the competition. Not just that, Sevilla boasts of winning the title thrice consecutively from 2014 to 2016.
However, this is not the same Sevilla that it was under Unai Emery, who now coaches French leaders Paris Saint Germain. That golden period for the Andalusians came under Emery and director of football Monchi.
The new coach Vincenzo Montella, who took over in December, faces a tough challenge, especially with a team that is plagued by injuries. Joaquin Correa looks doubtful after picking up a hamstring injury in Sevilla’s weekend win over Las Palmas but Montella’s side is boosted with the return of Ever Banega, Luis Muriel and Nolito to training this week. The key players for Sevilla are their strong attackers Pablo Sarabia, Wissam Ben Yedder.
United, have their own fair share of injuries. The addition of Alexis Sanchez would be a welcome change and that has coincided with an upturn in fortunes for Romelu Lukaku. But Mourinho indicated that Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all out injured in the weekend’s FA Cup clash against Huddersfield T0wn. While he sounds positive about the return of some these players, he remains doubtful about Paul Pogba. “Can we recover some of them for Wednesday? I believe so. Rashford, Herrera, Valencia, I think they have a chance. Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan – I don’t think they have any chance, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems. I think mentality is very important. And we have a strong team, strong bonding, strong team mentality. We know it is a very difficult match – but we go for it,” Mourinho said after United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield. Reports of tensions between Pogba and Mourinho hasn’t really helped their cause.
Sevilla and United have never faced each other before, except once for a friendly in 2013 that was won 3-1 by the Spanish side.