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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Return of Zlatan can inspire United to victory

Toffees set for more away-day blues

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to return from suspension
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Premier League
BT Sport 1, 8pm Tuesday

Manchester United failed to score in two of their three games without Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the Swede's return from suspension should give them the cutting edge they need to defeat Everton at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils are unbeaten in 19 Premier League matches but nine of those have been draws and they are running out of time to make an impression in the top-four race.

Saturday's 0-0 draw at home to West Brom was another massive blow on a weekend when they would have hoped to gain some ground on fourth-placed Manchester City.

United have eased to 7-2 for a top-four finish and their best hope of qualifying for the Champions League is to justify their status as 6-4 favourites for the Europa League.

They haven't quite given up hope of making the top four and may be prepared to take on a few more risks against Everton to get the victory they desperately need.

Everton are three points behind United having played two games more but are more likely to be looking over their shoulders to eighth-placed West Brom than up at the Red Devils.

With four of the top six battling it out to win the FA Cup and the EFL Cup already safely in United's hands, it seems highly likely a top- seven finish will guarantee Europa League football.

Everton have been seventh since the start of the year but injuries are piling up and they have to play United, Chelsea and Arsenal in their last eight games.

The six-point gap to West Brom is a handy cushion but there is no room for complacency.

Everton's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday continued a theme of poor results away to the top teams.

They have collected one point from four away matches against clubs in the top six and have lost on eight of their last ten visits to United.

The general fear factor about trips to the Theatre of Dreams has reduced since the Sir Alex Ferguson era and it is something Jose Mourinho will have to restore before United can get back to challenging for league titles.

However, United haven't lost in 23 home games since a 2-1 reverse to Manchester City in September and they are unlikely to lose against an Everton side mentally weakened by their Merseyside derby defeat and affected by the absences of Seamus Coleman, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ramiro Funes Mori and James McCarthy.

United have a number of injured players but possess a deep squad and their prospects have been boosted by the end of bans for Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera.

Ibrahimovic has been their talisman, scoring 26 goals in all competitions, and is likely to cause problems for a restructured Everton defence that could feature 22-year-old defender Matthew Pennington and 20-year-old right wing-back Mason Holgate.

Everton are likely to concede a few goals but may grab a consolation. The service into Romelu Lukaku wasn't great at Anfield but the Belgian is always a threat and can play his part in getting the away side on the scoresheet.

Man Utd win and both teams to score
1pt 5-2 Paddy Power

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Team news
Manchester United
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata remain sidelined and Paul Pogba is an injury doubt but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are available after suspension.

Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori and James McCarthy are sidelined with injuries picked up on international duty and Morgan Schneiderlin (calf) is not expected to feature until the weekend at the earliest.

Key stat
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 23 home games.

Everton have collected one point from four away matches against clubs in the top six and have lost on eight of their last ten visits to United
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