Manchester United face a tough trip to Sevilla in the Champions League last 16 - and George Pitts expects them to settle for a draw.
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Sevilla v Manchester United (1945 GMT, BT Sport 2)
Manchester United travel to Spain looking to keep their hopes of a second successive European title alive.
Jose Mourinho’s side, who won the Europa League last season, have the more favourable draw with the home tie coming in the second leg.
The Red Devils are favourites to win the round of 16 tie, with their La Liga counterparts upwards of 2/1 to get the victory on home soil that they surely need heading to Old Trafford for the return.
Mourinho, 55, is no stranger to European success having won the Champions League twice and Europe’s second competition with United last term. He knows what it takes to get to the further stages in these tournaments and he oversaw a fairly comfortable group campaign as they took 15 points from 18.
The Portuguese boss admitted earlier in the week how his side have been struggling with injuries, with the weekend changes in the FA Cup enforced rather than a case of rotation. With this and Mourinho’s approach in mind, they will take few risks at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – and will surely be happy to take a draw back to Old Trafford.
Sevilla, fifth domestically, are no strangers to Europe either having found recent success in the Europa League, triumphing a commendable five times since 2005/06.
Managed by former AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella, after a change during the winter break, they are in the Copa del Rey final and earlier in the season came back from 3-0 down at home to Liverpool to draw 3-3. With just two wins and three draws in the group stages though, they are somewhat fortunate to have made it this far.
That does not mean it will be straightforward for United and I think the hosts will get something from this tie.
A score draw looks tempting at 18/5, which would be good for United with an away goal, while Sevilla to be leading at half-time and a draw at full-time is 16/1. It perhaps won't be the best of the last 16 ties, but a close, tactical encounter nevertheless.
- This will be the first competitive meeting between Sevilla and Manchester United.
- Manchester United did not manage to score more than one goal in each of their last 14 Champions League encounters with Spanish opposition (7 goals total).
- Sevilla have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the fourth time in five appearances but they have never progressed further than the round of 16.
- Meanwhile, Manchester United are in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since 2013/14.
- Sevilla have never kept a clean sheet in the Champions League knockout stages (6 games) but they have also won two of their three home games (L1).
- Sevilla have won 72 per cent of their home games in the Champions League (13 out of 18), the third highest tally after Real Madrid (76 per cent) and Barcelona (73 per cent) among teams to have played at least 15 home games in the competition.
- Sevilla have won only two of their six games so far this season in the Champions League, the lowest tally among the 16 teams left in the competition.
- Sevilla conceded 12 goals in this season’s six group games, the highest tally amongst the 16 clubs left in the competition.
- Manchester United won five of their six group games this season, their highest tally in the Champions League since 2007/08.
- However, Manchester United have won only one of their last six Champions League knockout games (3-0 v Olympiakos in March 2014), drawing two and losing three.
- Wissam Ben Yedder has scored 50 per cent of Sevilla’s goals in this season’s Champions League (six out of 12). Of all players of the progressed teams, only Cristiano Ronaldo netted a greater proportion of his side’s goals in the group stages (53 per cent).
- Jose Mourinho will attempt to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs (after Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010).
Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma (1945 GMT, BT Sport 3)
Home advantage makes Shakhtar favourites in this first leg clash.
Roma, third in Serie A, travel to Ukraine priced at 21/10 due to their poor away form in Europe – they have won just one of their last 12 on the road.
The hosts, meanwhile, won all three of their home games in the group stages and they were, rather impressively, the first team to beat Manchester City this season.
Interestingly, none of Shakhtar’s last 13 Champions League games have ended in a draw and only one of those have been clean sheets. Meanwhile, Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet on the road in their last 24 Champions League games – including a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge – so you can expect over 1.5 goals or both teams to score in this one.
Due to their strength at home, in tricky Ukrainian conditions and Roma’s luck on the road, I am backing Paulo Fonseca’s side to edge it.
Over the years, some great Brazilians have turned out for the Miners and Marlos (17/5 to score anytime), now a Ukraine international, appears to be the next, with the midfielder playing a part by scoring or assisting in their last four Champions League goals.
After a blip either side of the winter break, the Giallorossi have won three league games on the spin and they well be hoping that momentum can be carried into Europe.
They, like United at Sevilla, will see a draw with an away goal as a good result to take back for the second leg, but I think they will start the return in three weeks’ time with their backs against the wall.
- Shakhtar Donetsk have won three of their four competitive games against Roma (L1), all in the Champions League.
- Shakhtar Donetsk's only previous encounter in the knockout stages of the Champions League dates back to the round of 16 in 2010/11. The Ukrainian side won 6-2 on aggregate.
- Shakhtar Donetsk have reached the knockout stages in four of their last seven Champions League campaigns, their best performance dating back to 2010/11 when they beat Roma in the round of 16.
- In fact, Shakhtar Donetsk have won only two of their eight Champions League knockout games (D2 L4), both of those coming against…Roma in 2010/11.
- Meanwhile, Roma have made the knockout stages of the Champions League for the sixth time in their last seven participations. However, it’s been 10 years since they last reached the quarter-finals (2007/08); in fact, Roma have lost seven of their last eight Champions League knockout games (W1).
- Shakhtar Donetsk have won their three home games in the Champions League so far this season, scoring at least two goals in each of their last five outings on home soil.
- None of Shakhtar Donetsk’s last 13 Champions League games has ended in a draw (W5 L8), keeping only one clean sheet in that period.
- Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 24 Champions League away games, their last shut-out dating back to March 2007 against Lyon (2-0). They have also won only one of their last 12 games on the road (D5 L6), it was against Qarabag last September (2-1).
- Roma have picked up the fewest yellow cards (4) and committed the fewest fouls (47) in this season’s Champions League.
- Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Marlos has scored or assisted the Ukrainian team’s last four Champions League goals.
- Diego Perotti has scored two goals in his last three Champions League games; he’d netted only one goal in his previous 10 games in the competition.
Posted at 1900 GMT on 20/02/18.
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