Manchester United v Real Betis Cheat Sheet
Manchester United v Real Betis
After destruction at Anfield on Sunday, Manchester United’s next test will put them up against Spanish side Real Betis, who come into the game off the back of a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on Sunday evening. The Europa League round of 16 first leg game will kick off at 8pm GMT and will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the United Kingdom.
Erik Ten Hag will face up against former Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini in the dugout, with the Verdiblancos arriving to this match sat sixth in LaLiga and unbeaten in four consecutives matches.
Both Ten Hag and United fans will be demanding that their team bounce back from the 7-0 defeat to Liverpool straightaway and even more so in front of a home crowd which is likely to be a sell-out as Manchester United seek to add to the silverware they picked up at Wembley only last weekend.
The Red Devils actually travelled to Seville in December for a friendly match against Real Betis without any of their World Cup stars and took on an almost full-strength side, who eventually ran out 1-0 winners courtesy of a goal from Nabil Fekir. The Frenchman will miss this battle after an ACL injury ended his season early. The return of United’s regulars will almost certainly swing this tie in their favour.
With some key absences for Real Betis and United likely to go all out on home soil to please their fans after huge disappointment at the weekend, there’s good reason for Manchester United to be overwhelming favourites and expect them to exploit Betis’ defensive weaknesses to secure the victory in this first leg encounter.
It’s likely that Marcus Rashford will be given the nod as the number nine for this tie, with Wout Weghorst expected to drop into a deeper number 10 role to support the England international in the leading position in the frontline.
Rashford has registered two shots on target in three of his last six appearances and is in the form of his life in recent weeks, and will be looking to add to that by scoring against a fifth Spanish team in the Europa League, having previously netted against Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Granada and Celta Vigo.
When playing in the centre-forward role, his shot figures are even more impressive. With an average of 1.81 shots on target per 90, and 3.46 shots per 90, Rashford will be looking to lead the charge on the Real Betis goal just as he did against Barcelona, against whom he registered three shots on target in the first leg.
Although many teams around Europe adopt a much more defensive approach than normal when they have a trip to Old Trafford, Real Betis shouldn’t be that kind of team. They are well used to playing away at giant clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid and, when they do so, Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis keep playing their expansive brand of football. In this first leg, we can expect the Spanish side to set up in their usual 4-2-3-1 and to have a go, which should lead to chances for both sides.
Manchester United will be expected to bounce back from the 7-0 from Anfield in front of their home fans, but to go from seven goals conceded to a clean sheet in the space of four days would be a remarkable turnaround. Even if they shore things up at the back, Real Betis will know that there are opportunities there, as this United team was even conceding an average of exactly one goal per game across their 12 matches before the trip to Anfield.
From a Betis point of view, they’ve scored in all six of their European matches so far this season. Before their 0-0 against Real Madrid on Sunday, which was end to end and which could easily have finished 2-2, they’d had five matches in a row in which both teams scored. It wouldn’t be a surprise for them to get on the scoresheet here.
William Carvalho is absolutely a player to watch across this tie, as the Portuguese defensive midfielder is going to be kept busy. He possesses both the engine and the positional awareness to get to the ball, however he also often clips the opposition as he does so, conceding an average of 1.09 fouls per game across all competitions this season.
That’s a high number for a player on a team that usually has possession, so he’ll be even more likely to bring about a peep of the referee’s whistle when playing away at a strong team like United, who’ll likely win the possession battle on Thursday.
Precisely because of his fouling in LaLiga, Carvalho is suspended for Betis’ league game on Sunday, which means there won’t be any need for Pellegrini to substitute the midfielder off for a rest towards the end of the first leg. That means he’ll surely play the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford and he’ll surely commit at least one foul in that time.
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