Manchester United vs Granada | Thursday 15th April 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
Ole Gunnar Solkjaer will be hoping his side can make light work of the second-leg against visitors Granada and ease into the semi-final.
It was a fantastic result in the first leg as United notched two away goals to set up a seemingly straight forward test on home soil in the return fixture.
United have all but sewn up the second spot in the Premier League and will surely feel that come the end of May, if they’ve secured second and added a trophy to the cabinet, it will have been a successful season.
Granada position in La Liga is safe for another year but they would never have envisaged reaching this stage of the competition at the beginning of the campaign. However, now that they are here, they want to progress even further and turn the tie on its head at Old Trafford.
It’s going to be interesting given the notable absentees from Solksjaers squad going into this one. Could a comeback be on the cards?
● Have seen 2+ cards in 6/11 European Cup (EC) games this season.
● Have seen at least one card in all 11 games.
● In those games, the opposition has seen 2+ cards in 7 of those 11.
● In Europe, United’s opponents have been caught offside twice or more in 8/11 games.
● United have gifted their opponents 12+ free kicks in 9 of their 11 EC matches.
● United have drawn 13+ free kicks from their opponents in all 11 EC games.
● Manchester United, fortunately, have a two-goal lead to protect from the first leg as Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are all suspended on Thursday.
● Marcus Rashford sat out training on Wednesday and is a doubt to face Granada. With Dan James back available, Rashford may not be risked here.
● Solskjaer has confirmed he will make a few changes for Thursday's second leg. Fringe players like Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and hot prospect Amad Diallo will hope for starts here. David de Gea will be back in goal.
● Victor Lindelof will serve a one-match ban if he is booked on Thursday but Solskjaer has no choice but to play him here. Axel Tuanzebe steps in for a rare outing with Maguire banned and Bailly possibly unavailable.
● Have seen 2+ cards in 8/11 EC games this season.
● In those games, the opposition has seen 2+ cards in 9 of those 11.
● Have been caught offside at least once in 10/11 of their EC games this season.
● Granada has drawn 12+ free kicks in 9 of their 11 EC matches.
● Their opponents have seen 13+ free kicks in all 11 matches.
● Granada are chasing down a two-goal deficit without Domingos Duarte and Yan Eteki who are suspended due to an accumulation of bookings.
● Luis Suarez recently returned from injury to bolster Granada's forward options but the Spanish side will likely be without six players on Thursday.
● Former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado was suspended at the weekend but will be fresh to return to the starting XI here.
Referee: István Kovács
● Averages 3.16 cards per game in Europe this season.
● Awards an average of 21.84 fouls per game.
● The home side has seen at least a card in all of his last 12 European Cup games officiated.
My first pick is for United to take 13 or more free kicks in the match and for them to see 2+ cards.
Looking at the data, United have seen at least a card in all of their European games this season – they picked up five in the first leg. So I think we’re getting a healthy price for them to pick up two considering Granada need to go for it.
There are some notable absentees from the squad for the hosts. Maguire, Shaw and McTominay are all missing and they tend to be players who pick up the cards. However, this is the time that other players need to step up, particularly if Granada score first.
In Europe, United’s games tend to be quite scrappy and despite having a healthy advantage going into this one, I feel that Granada are going to be putting everything into this game. They’ve got nothing else to play for domestically and this is the one they wanted to progress in.
An early goal can give them the impetus they need to push on and perhaps turn the tide. As such, I’m expecting them to press and close United down, leading to fouls.
Bet365 count offsides towards the free kick count. United’s last three opponents have been called offside 11 times accumulatively and Granada needs to push forward and make something happen.
Granada’s opponents in the Europa League this season have seen at least 13 free kicks in every single one and The Red Devils have also drawn 13 or more free kicks from their opponents in every European Cup match this season.
My second pick is of similar thinking but I’m going for a bit more of a longshot, despite the fact I still think it’s overpriced.
It’s for United to take 16 or more free kicks and for Granadas to take 17 or more throw-ins. Granada’s opponents have seen 16+ free-kicks in 7/11 games. Meanwhile United have drawn 16+ in 8/11.
Granada has a very high throw in average in this seasons competition and throw-ins are generally awarded to sides who press and need to chase. Todays visitors have seen 17+ throw-ins in 9/11 matches and United have allowed their European opponents 17+ throw-ins in 9/11 games.
With Granada chasing the game, I think this has an excellent chance of landing and should be closer to 2/1 rather than 5/2.