Seeking revenge for last season’s Europa League final heartbreak, Manchester United will play host to Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
A ‘revenge mission’ aside, this is a must-win match for the Red Devils if they are to avoid another underwhelming Champions League campaign.
Although the overall head-to-head record in the competition screams a draw, the Premier League heavyweights are determined to break tradition here.
The betting odds here favour a draw – each of United’s four matches against Villarreal in the Champions League has ended honours even, without a single goal witnessed across those clashes.
However, the sports pick of the day might just be a win for the home side by a one-goal margin.
With Cristiano Ronaldo expected to star, this is the sort of game he was signed at Old Trafford to win – and despite the Europa League final loss and possible injuries to Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire, this is a game United are expected to win, albeit narrowly.
Manchester United Preview
Man United’s topsy-turvy start to the season culminated with a 1-0 home loss to Aston Villa on Saturday, cranking up the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian has started to feel uncomfortable since United’s slip-up against Young Boys in their Group F curtain-raiser and can ill-afford any errors here.
After failing to negotiate last season’s Champions League group stage, Solskjaer became the first Premier League manager to lose over 50% of his Champions League matches in charge.
Only 22 Premier League strategists have coached their sides in 10+ games in the Champions League, including Solskjaer, who has lost seven of his 11 managerial engagements in the competition.
No strangers to high stakes, the Red Devils have never lost their opening two matches in the Champions League history.
On a cautionary note, United are winless in their last seven fixtures against La Liga clubs in the Champions League (D3, L4) since a 1-0 triumph over Real Sociedad in October 2013.
It will likely be up to Ronaldo to halt United’s disastrous run against Spanish opposition, given his prolific experience against Villarreal during his time at Real Madrid.
The all-time Champions League top goalscorer netted 13 goals and delivered five assists in 19 matches against Villarreal as a Madrid player.
By contrast, he has drawn a blank in each of his four Champions League meetings with this opposition as a Red Devil.
Unai Emery’s ‘stalemate specialists’ head into proceedings on the back of a goalless draw with Real Madrid in a high-profile La Liga fixture over the weekend.
As a result, five of Villarreal’s six domestic matches this season have ended as a draw (W1), which was the case in their Champions League opener against Atalanta.
There has been no ‘in-between’ for the Yellow Submarine this term in terms of entertainment.
While four of their eight competitive games yielded a 0-0 draw, the other four have seen over 3.5 goals and both teams on the scoresheet.
Despite a slow start to the season, Villarreal can draw confidence from an impressive run of European form, having avoided defeat in each of their last 16 UEFA-sanctioned match-ups (W12, D4).
Amid the longest unbeaten streak in major European competitions amongst participating sides, the Spaniards are keen to post their first competitive away victory since mid-May.
They are indeed winless in their last five competitive fixtures on away turf (D4, L1), netting an average of just 0.6 goals on average whilst drawing a blank three times in that sequence.
Manu Trigueros could join a distinguished group of just two Spanish players to have scored in their first two appearances in the Champions League after troubling the scoreboard in a 2-2 draw with Atalanta last time out.
The 29-year-old midfielder has enjoyed a decent start to the season, scoring twice in six La Liga outings to eclipse his last season’s tally already in September.
Manchester United vs Villarreal Predicted Line-ups
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles; Fred, Scott McTominay; Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Villarreal (4-4-2): GeronimoRulli; Pervis Estupinan, Pau Torres, Raul Albiol, Alfonso Pedraza; Yeremi Pino, Etienne Capoue, Dani Parejo, Manuel Trigueros; Boulaye Dia, Paco Alcacer.
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