1pt Under 2.5 goals at 6/5 (General)
Manchester United’s 4-0 thumping of Real Sociedad in the first leg of this tie took some of the gloss off what has, in truth, been a wonderful first half of the season for the Spaniards.
After looking like genuine title contenders in the early stages of the campaign, Sociedad have succumbed to the powers that be in La Liga of late, now currently occupying fifth place in the division behind both Madrid teams, Barcelona and Sevilla.
As much as the romantic in all of us would like to see a team like Sociedad pip Spain’s elite to the title, this regression was always going to happen, with squad depth a huge factor when playing European ties on a regular basis.
Sociedad are still performing well in La Liga though, winning their last three league matches, unbeaten in their last five, and in fact, the side from the Basque Country have only been beaten five times in La Liga this season, with three of those defeats coming to teams in the league’s current top four.
Sociedad’s European performances have not matched that of their domestic however, making hard work of what was, in truth, a relatively easy group, only qualifying courtesy of a last-gasp Willian Jose equaliser on matchday six.
It was perhaps predictable then that Sociedad would succumb to a Manchester United side who were unbeaten in their five previous matches coming into the first leg of the tie, but the manner of the defeat was something of a surprise.
United followed up their 4-0 victory over Sociedad with another good attacking display against Newcastle on Sunday, putting three goals past the Magpies, and it would take a mighty collapse for Manchester United to throw away the four-goal advantage they amassed in the first leg.
With Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester City, West Ham and Leicester all coming up in the next few weeks however, it would be a shock were Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not to make a raft of changes to his starting XI for this match.
Initially, Manchester United’s price looks an appealing one, Ole’s side are just below even money to beat a team they hammered 4-0 a week previous, but, as mentioned, the changes he is expected to make to his starting line-up makes this a much more difficult game to assess.
In the whole of the Europa League this season, only two teams have recorded a lower match goals average (the total number of goals scored in a game by both teams) than Real Sociedad.
The Spaniards have averaged just 1.86 goals per game in this season’s competition, and they haven’t exactly been the most thrilling side to watch in La Liga either, with just 46% of their league matches this season seeing three or more goals.
Effectively then, this is a side who have struggled to score in Europe this season, against a side who really do not need to score in this match.
Manchester United do have strength in depth when it comes to attacking talent, but they do look a completely different team without the impetus of Bruno Fernandes, and it would be a huge surprise to see the Portuguese playmaker start this match.
It is a bit surprising to see UNDER 2.5 GOALS the outsider of the two options in this fixture, currently available at a top price of 6/5, and that looks worth a bet in what is now effectively a dead rubber.
Score prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Real Sociedad (Sky Bet odds: 17/2)
Odds correct at 1630 GMT (23/02/21)
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