Let’s be honest, this match could be being played in the fiery pits of green hell and I doubt it would make much difference. St Etienne’s Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium has a reputation for being an intimidating arena for away teams to come due to the amount of flares and pyro which fill the place with green smoke. Yet it is something Zlatan, Martial and Mourinho have all faced before. Zlatan and Martial for obvious reasons and Jose when he played there with Porto. Martial told MUTV it is “maybe the best atmosphere in France”. He also hit the nail on the head when describing how a single early goal will kill the tie completely and that is exactly what is required.
In the first leg at Old Trafford, 3-0 was harsh on St Etienne. They pressed well, won the ball high and were quick going forward, only to be let down by a striker who couldn’t finish a banana milkshake. United were slow and indecisive in the first half and that showed through misplaced passes and a lack of movement across the pitch. Apart from Antonio Valencia of course, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him stood still. I don’t see this evening’s game to be straight forward, especially if Etienne get the early goal themselves. The first goal will be crucial.
Mourinho has left Rooney and Shaw out of the 20-man travelling squad and it has sparked the inevitable transfer rumours immediately. Specifically around Rooney. Despite only beginning to train again yesterday after suffering an injury. De Gea travels and I expect him to play as he needs to be match ready for the Cup Final on Sunday. Perhaps most excitingly, with Herrera missing through suspension, there is a chance Schweinsteiger will start alongside Carrick or Fellaini. The Belgian afro struggled massively last Thursday against St Etienne’s high press and speed and I think if he played tonight it would be no different. Although he is physical and breaks up play well, his play style is ineffective if he can’t get close to players to tackle them in the first place.
I’m predicting both teams to score. But I feel whoever scores first will go on to win the game. If it’s St Etienne, hopefully it isn’t enough to win them the tie. I have a feeling Zlatan’s pathetically soft penalty might be a very important goal.
Kick-off is at 5pm, don’t forget!