The Champions League knockout stages begin for Manchester United on Wednesday with a trip to Sevilla. Here's your essential guide to the last-16, first-leg encounter...
Setting the scene: European football makes a welcome return as the Reds are back in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday night with a trip to Spain to face five-times Europa League winners Sevilla in the round-of-16 first leg. It’s our first appearance in the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition for four years and, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, Jose Mourinho men’s will be keen to record a positive result at the 42,500-capacity Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford on 13 March.
How have we been doing? The Reds have generally been in good form of late, recording seven wins from nine games in all competitions in 2018 so far after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, which set up a last-eight tie at home to Brighton & Hove Albion. It promises to be a much tougher test in Seville for United in a crucial week, which concludes with a key Premier League clash against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, but one which the Reds will undoubtedly relish on the European stage.
Goals: Huddersfield 0 United 2Video
How can I watch it? Wednesday’s clash kicks off at 19:45 GMT and will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK. MUTV subscribers will be able to watch build-up from 17:45 GMT on the Match Day show and listen to radio commentary of the game before watching it in full at midnight. You can also follow the action as it happens via ManUtd.com’s live match blog and @ManUtd on Twitter.
What’s the team news? Jose Mourinho is dealing with a number of injury issues ahead of the game and says he expects to be without Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford have a chance of being fit. Eric Bailly could make his 50th appearance for the club after returning from three months out with an ankle injury as a late substitute against Huddersfield. The boss could give a further update on his squad in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
How have both sides reached this stage? The Reds finished top of Group A, which consisted of Basel, CSKA Moscow and Benfica, after winning five of our six matches – with the only dropped points coming in the 1-0 defeat in Switzerland on matchday five. Meanwhile, Sevilla were runners-up in Group E but enjoyed a positive campaign, picking up nine points. They drew twice with group winners Liverpool, including coming from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at home, and their only defeat was a surprise 5-1 thrashing at Spartak Moscow.
Who is Sevilla’s manager? Just a month after being sacked by AC Milan, Vincenzo Montella only took charge of the Spanish club at the end of December. The Italian replaced Eduardo Berizzo – who was sacked a week earlier, after returning to the club following cancer surgery, as a result of a poor run of form. A prolific goalscorer in his successful 28-year playing career, the former Roma striker had a brief spell in the Premier League with Fulham, where he scored twice in 10 outings in 2006/07, and has six years of managerial experience in his homeland with several clubs, including Fiorentina and Sampdoria.
How are Sevilla doing? The Andalusian side, who won the Europa League in three successive seasons prior to the Reds’ triumph last term, have endured an up-and-down season, but their form has improved since the turn of the year. They currently sit fifth in La Liga, six points behind Real Madrid who occupy the final Champions League qualification place, and have reached the Copa del Rey final, where they will face Barcelona in April. Montella’s men also come into the game on the back of three straight wins in all competitions, after beating Las Palmas 2-1 away from home on Saturday. The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium has been a fortress this season, with Sevilla’s only home defeat in all competitions a 5-3 loss against fierce rivals Real Betis on 6 January.
One to watch: After a season away with Inter Milan, Ever Banega returned to Sevilla last summer and quickly found his feet again. A tactically intelligent and versatile playmaker, the 29-year-old has long been admired by some of Europe’s top clubs and has been part of Argentina’s squad for a decade. Capable of dictating the tempo and creating chances for his team-mates, the experienced midfield maestro has chipped in with a number of goals and assists across all competitions this season and will be key to unlocking the Reds defence.
What’s our record like in Spain? The Reds have generally struggled on Spanish soil, winning just two of our previous 23 games on European excursions. But United have fared well in the country in recent times, suffering just one defeat in the last eight visits and were victorious on our previous trip to Spain in May last year as Marcus Rashford’s free-kick gave the Reds a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final first leg.
What they said: One man who is looking forward to the Sevilla trip is Juan Mata, who will be back in his homeland where he spent four years with Valencia before moving to England in 2011.
“I’m especially excited about playing in my country again, at the Sanchez Pizjuan, a major stadium where the local team always gets big support,” he wrote in his latest blog.
“I hope we see a great football game and we get a good score for the second leg at Old Trafford, in front of our crowd.”
Did you know? Wednesday’s game will be United’s 50th match against Spanish teams overall in European competition. The Reds’ record so far stands at 13 wins, 20 draws and 16 defeats. It’s also our first competitive meeting with Sevilla, who become the club’s 220th official opponent, all told.
Who’s the referee? Clément Turpin will lead a French team of officials who will take charge of the midweek game. The 35-year-old will oversee his first United game but handled Sevilla’s 2-1 win over Leicester City at this stage of the competition a year ago and their play-off first-leg victory over Istanbul Basaksehir by the same scoreline back in August.
Who else is in action? After four ties were played last week, there are four more last-16 games taking place this week. Here’s the fixture list:
Tuesday 20 February
Bayern Munich v Besiktas
Chelsea v Barcelona
Wednesday 21 February
Sevilla v Manchester United
Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma
All games will be kick off at 19:45 GMT.