BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

United can hold Sevilla 
in dangerous fixture

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

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 Liverpoolwhich was achieved after they fell 3-0 down inside 30 minutes.

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.

Recommendation
Draw

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

Google +1

 

Currently no Pro Punters for today

Match in Focus

19:00 TODAY BBC1

Argentina v Croatia

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Argentina have scored more than one goal in just two of their last ten competitive games
Expert verdict
Croatia are well-placed after the first round of fixtures in Group C and can edge closer to the knockout stages by holding Argentina to a draw in Nizhny Novgorod. Argentina didn't create enough clear cut chances in their 1-1 draw with Iceland and are at risk of suffering a group stage exit for the first time since 2002.