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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Mourinho's United can hold Sevilla in dangerous fixture

Injury worries add to Red Devils' concerns

Eric Bailly (centre) of Manchester United tackles Benfica's Eduardo Salvio
1 of 1

Champions League last-16 first leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Successive away league defeats have ended Manchester United's faint hopes of catching Manchester City but the Red Devils can show greater resilience by holding Sevilla to a draw in Andalusia.

It looks a dangerous first leg for United, who are hampered by numerous injury concerns and uncertainty over record signing Paul Pogba, who hasn't played since being hauled off during the 1-0 loss away to Newcastle.

United returned to winning ways with a 2-0 success at Huddersfield in Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie although it wasn't an altogether convincing performance.

Huddersfield had pushed United back for long periods and won the shot count 19 to five.

The most pleasing aspect for Jose Mourinho was the disciplined way his team defended.

More of the same is likely to be needed at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium where Sevilla have lost just once in 35 games, a run that stretches back to November 2016.

Sevilla collected seven points from three home matches in the Champions League group stage, including a 3-3 draw against Liverpool which was achieved after they fell 3-0 down inside 30 minutes.

Champions League 2017-18 statistics

United are far less likely than Liverpool to throw away a three-goal lead but also lack the potency to establish such a big advantage in the first place.

They have spent a fortune on attacking players but the style of play remains rigid and Mourinho's tactical inflexibility is one of the main reasons Pogba has been having so many problems.

The Frenchman is clearly ill at ease playing in a midfield two but has been shoehorned into the position because Mourinho has been reluctant to leave out Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez or Anthony Martial.

For now, Pogba appears to be out of the equation although it would be a huge call to leave the 24-year-old on the bench for such a massive fixture.

Pogba is United's top Premier League assist-maker with nine in just 17 appearances and at his best would be a huge asset in the push to secure a major trophy.

But Mourinho is likely to be more focused on defensive discipline than the hunt for an away goal.

Sevilla tend to play much better at home and were at their best when winning 3-1 against Atletico Madrid in last month's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg.

However, they lack a prolific attacker - Wissam Ben Yedder is their top league scorer this term with six goals - and there is a doubt over the fitness of midfielder Ever Banega, who has missed the last two games with a minor injury.

They are fifth in La Liga but have a negative goal difference (minus four) and a poor away record (five wins, no draws and eight defeats).

Given Sevilla's struggles on the road there is huge pressure on them to establish a lead before next month's trip to Old Trafford.

However, a cautious United are likely to be very difficult to break down and can pick up a satisfactory draw.

1pt 9-4 general

Bet on this match at soccerbase

Team news
Joaquin Correa (knock) is an injury doubt and Miguel Layun is cup-tied. Sebastien Corchia (groin) is out.

Manchester United
Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini (knee) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) are sidelined and Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera (muscle strains) are injury doubts.

Key stat
Sevilla have lost one of their last 35 home matches.

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Mourinho is likely to be more focused on defensive discipline than the hunt for an away goal
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