Manchester United-Sevilla FC: Finding Value in Champions League Clash
Jose Mourinho via Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
After an impressive win over fierce rivals Liverpool on Saturday, Manchester United (-180) figure to be a confident bunch heading into their Champions League match with Spanish side Sevilla (+570) on Tuesday afternoon (3:45 p.m. ET).
In a strange twist of fate, an injury to record signing Paul Pogba actually appeared to play into United’s favor when they hosted Liverpool, as manager Jose Mourinho (pictured above) was able to field a balanced lineup that got the best out of those in action.
That, after all, has been the real issue with integrating the Frenchman into the Red Devils’ lineup in recent times, as his inclusion in the midfield undoubtedly limits the freedom of some of those ahead of him. With Pogba out, midfielders Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay offered real protection to the defense and provided a platform for the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford to get up in support of Romelu Lukaku.
That much was key in the first half over the weekend, and Lukaku’s role in the victory should not be downplayed. The 24-year-old allows United to go direct and play on the counter when they need to; the Belgian striker has recovered from a midseason slump and has been performing well for some time now.
After scoring a pair of first-half goals, United sat deep and frustrated their visitors in the second half. And while Liverpool possessed the ball 68% of the match and mustered 14 shots to their hosts’ five, Jurgen Klopp’s side carved out very few real opportunities.
Given those results, United may deploy a similar tactic again Tuesday. Sevilla is a side that, under coach Vincenzo Montella, likes to see plenty of the ball, too, having averaged 59% possession in this season’s Champions League — less than only Barcelona and Manchester City. Sevilla dominated their match against United last month, but did not record the victory. Thanks to eight stops by United goalie David De Gea, the sides tied 0-0 at Sevilla’s home, Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
While the onus will be on the Premier League outfit to attack more than it did in its last matchup, Mourinho would love to get the sort of early lead that allowed United to thwart Liverpool’s offense Saturday. Sevilla were on the end of a similar style of performance against Valencia over the weekend, losing 2-0 despite having 62% of possession and firing 21 shots.
Any temptation to rush the aforementioned Pogba back to action for the home side will have eased in turn, with Manchester United likely to field an unchanged lineup. With that in mind, you wouldn’t bet against another strong defensive display from the English side, with the return of centerback Eric Bailly only improving their chances of ensuring an all-important clean sheet.
Knowing that just one away goal from the La Liga club could be fatal to United’s hopes of progression, defense will be Mourinho’s priority. As such, a bet on under 2.5 goals could prove profitable once again. Given that United have conceded just once in their three Champions League home games, where they’ve been strong all season defensively, the English side is far more likely to shut out their opponents this week.
The odds, then, of Manchester United to win with under 2.5 goals scored are tempting with Unibet (4.25 Decimal odds/+325 American odds), while if you’re looking for a potential match winner, the in-form Rashford could also represent real value.
It’s been a frustrating start to the year in general for Rashford, but he made a real impact off the bench at Crystal Palace last Monday to earn a start over the weekend. And after scoring two goals Saturday, the 20-year-old has now found the net in back-to-back starts. Rashford has also showed a scoring touch on European nights, with three goals in this season’s Champions League despite starting in only two of seven appearances. Rashford will be keen to prove a point to his manager and is all but certain to keep his place in the starting lineup.
As high as 3.05 (+205) to score at any time in the match, Rashford may again be the decisive player for Manchester United to notch a narrow home win.
All odds current as of Monday afternoon.
Top Photo Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports