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Previewing the Manchester clubs’ UEFA Europa League fixtures

Manchester City and Manchester United will both participate in the UEFA Europa League, not the Champions League, on Thursday, February 16.

City are scheduled to take on last year’s UEFA Europa League champions FC Porto, while United will clash with Dutch giants Ajax.

Both are promising fixtures, with both City and United playing away from home.

Nonetheless, Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson will surely be eyeing victories in their respective games.

Betting Odds

Ajax (18/5) v Manchester United (11/13); Draw: (27/10)

FC Porto (15/8) v Manchester City (17/10); Draw (23/10)

Ajax v Manchester United: Match Preview

Despite being the away side, Manchester United are heavy favorites heading into this fixture, and rightfully so.

United have been on good form in their last three halves, scoring five goals, including three in the second half versus Chelsea to secure a 3-3 draw and two in the second half versus Liverpool.

In retrospect, Ajax have won just one of their last five games, having conceded 10 goals in that span.

Players to Watch

England international striker Wayne Rooney is the man to watch for Manchester United. Rooney is coming off a brace versus Liverpool, and is the favorite to open the scoring on Thursday.

For Ajax, Serbian winger Miralem Sulejmani, who has bagged 10 goals and five assists in 15 matches in the Dutch Eredivisie, is surely the danger man.

Prediction

United control the game, winning 2-0 at Amsterdam ArenA.

FC Porto v Manchester City: Match Preview

Roberto Mancini’s side enter this fixture on decent form, having won three of their last five matches.

That being said, the Estadio do Dragao can be an extremely tough place to play, especially when Porto are on top form.

After suffering a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Gil Vicente on January 29, Porto routed Uniao Leiria on February 12 by a score of 4-0.

With both teams coming off clean sheet wins, this one is up for grabs.

Players to Watch

Keep an eye on James Rodriguez of FC Porto.

The 20-year-old Colombian has netted 10 goals in 18 games for Porto in all competitions in 2011-12.

If Porto are to get a result versus Manchester City on Thursday, Rodriguez will need to be on top form.

For City, Mario Balotelli is the man to watch. Isn’t he always?

Balotelli has had a fantastic goal-scoring record since joining Manchester City in 2010, which is one reason why I fancy him to get on the score-sheet in Portugal.

Prediction

At the end of the day, City’s talent will prove to be the deciding factor at the Estadio do Dragao. 3-1 City.

Tue 14 February, 2012
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