Celta Vigo v Manchester United
Thursday May 04, 20:05
Live on BT Sport 2
Maintaining the Spanish tradition in this competition, Celta Vigo are into the semi-finals for the first time in their history. They finished behind Ajax in their group, but came alive in the knockout phase. They looked dead and buried after losing 1-0 at home to a very good Shakhtar Donetsk side, but they won the second leg in Kharkiv with a highly questionable penalty, and went on to win the tie.
Then they beat Krasnodar home and away, and edged out Genk 4-3 on aggregate. This is arguably the biggest game in the Galician club's history - they have never won the league or cup in Spain, and they have never been this close to European glory. Indeed, the club has only been back in Spain's top flight since 2012.
Liverpool outcast Iago Aspas has caught the eye with five Europa League goals, while former Manchester City forward John Guidetti can also be a handful. Sadly, Giuseppe Rossi won't be given the chance to face his former club, as he has picked up yet another injury.
There are many ways to prepare for a big game, and Celta chose to field a weakened side at the weekend. It led to them losing 3-0 at home to Athletic Club, their third consecutive La Liga defeat. They aren't exactly going into this game with momentum, and in all competitions they have won just two of their last eight games.
With Manchester United's hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League hanging in the balance, the Europa League represents the club's best chance of qualifying for the Champions League. Not only that, but it is an opportunity for Jose Mourinho to finish his maiden season at Old Trafford with two major trophies, after United's Wembley success in the EFL Cup final.
United haven't exactly breezed through the competition. Their home form got them through the group stage, mitigating the damage done by defeats at Feyenoord and Fenerbahce. They blew away St Etienne in the last 32, but in the last two rounds they drew in Rostov and Brussels, before turning ties around at Old Trafford. In the case of Anderlecht, they needed extra time to get the job done.
Mourinho has been unjustly moaning about injury problems all season, but he may finally have a case. Top scorerZlatan Ibrahimovic is out for the season, while defenders Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are all out. Eric Bailly is carrying an ankle injury. That said, he'll still be able to field a talented side which is likely to include the world's most expensive player, Paul Pogba.
In the last two rounds, I have successfully advised bettors to lay Manchester United ahead of the away leg. They went on to draw 1-1 at both Rostov and Anderlecht. However, this time I am a little more confident about United, and a bit more encouraged by the fact they are a chunky 2.72 to win this first leg.
Firstly, Celta have got into a losing habit before the match. I know they have been prioritising this game, but it still feels like the wrong way to go about it. Celta have lost four of their last six matches at Balaidos.
Secondly, United have lost just two of their last 40 games, so I fancy them to at least pick up a draw, and we can back them Draw No Bet at 1.88. Despite the defensive reshuffle he's having to pull off, Mourinho knows how to win European ties like this. He'll try to contain Celta's attacking players, and nick something at the other end, and I reckon he'll pull it off.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The market seems to agree with me about Mourinho's potential approach, because Under 2.5 Goals is a skinny1.65. However, it might be worth a look at backing No in theBoth Teams To Score market at 1.90.
Celta have drawn a blank in four of their last six home matches, while United have kept a clean sheet in five of their last nine games. They've also managed shut-outs in five of their last eight UEL matches.
Back Manchester United Draw No Bet at 1.88
Back No in the Both Teams To Score market at 1.90
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