Manchester United will take on La Liga outfit Sevilla on Wednesday night at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in their
Champions League round of 16 first-leg clash, the Reds’ first appearance in the competition’s knockout stages since 2014. Jose Mourinho’s men go into the encounter in Spain on the back of a 2-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Saturday night, a result that secured their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku brace. Sevilla, meanwhile, also registered a victory at the weekend, defeating Las Palmas 2-1. Despite sitting in fifth place in the La Liga table, Vincenzo Montella’s side will be no pushovers and the Reds will be guaranteed a hostile reception by the home crowd, renowned for their vocal support.
United, however, may be without a number of first-team players for the trip to Spain, with midfielder Paul Pogba the most notable potential absentee. The France international sat out the Reds’ weekend win through illness and Mourinho has stated that he is unsure whether the 24-year-old will play a part on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford, Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera all missed the Huddersfield clash due to injuries but are likely to be available for selection. Besides long-term absentees Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho indicated that centre-backs Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are also set for a spell on the sidelines, so the return of Eric Bailly will come as a major boost to the Portuguese.
Whoever starts at the back for the Reds would be wise to keep an eye on Sevilla forward Wissam Ben Yedder, who found the back of the net six times during the group stage. United have been in inconsistent form of late, with recent league defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all but ending their faint title hopes and putting their place in the top four under pressure.
The next few days could prove to be season-defining for the Reds, who will be hoping to obtain a positive result ahead of the second-leg clash in three weeks’ time. On Sunday afternoon, United welcome fourth-placed Chelsea to Old Trafford for a crunch league encounter and Mourinho will be desperate to get one over rival Antonio Conte and increase the distance between the two sides. However, Mourinho will be well aware that his men must focus on getting a positive result from their trip to Spain before turning their attention elsewhere.
At this stage four years ago, under David Moyes, United suffered an embarrassing 2-0 first-leg defeat to Greek side Olympiacos and required a Robin van Persie hat-trick to turn the tie on its head in the return leg and earn the Reds a place in the competition’s quarter-finals. Mourinho will be aware that his side cannot afford a similar first-leg experience on Wednesday night for the Reds’ entire season could depend on it.