Monday, January 21, 2019

Prediction: Valencia vs Manchester United

Verdict: Romelu Lukaku to score anytime 

Best Odds: 7/4

Bookmaker: Bet365

With their spot in the knockout stage already confirmed, Manchester United can take top spot off Juventus if they beat Valencia and the Old Lady fail to topple Young Boys.

Valencia

Starting with the hosts, while the poor form of Young Boys may have helped Valencia bag a spot in the Europa League courtesy of a third place finish in Group H, that doesn’t cover what has been a very worrying start for Marcelino García Toral. Now picking up just one win in their last four matches across all competitions, the Bats find themselves sat way down in 15th in the La Liga table. Holding just a four-point buffer over the relegation zone, the former European giants have also been drastically short of confidence in Europe. Picking up just one win in their five Group H matches, a 3-1 win over Young Boys is Valencia’s only Champions League victory since October 2015. Arguably the biggest under performers across Europe’s top-tiers, it will be their form in the final third giving Toral the biggest headache. Valencia have failed to score in six of their past eight games in the Champions League. Yet to beat Manchester United in their history, the La Liga outfit have also lost four of their past six European matches at the Estadio de Mestalla.

Team News

Jose Gaya is suspended for the hosts, while Gabriel Paulista is ruled out through injury after being forced off in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sevilla.

Jeison Murillo and Kevin Gameiro are also likely to miss out on Wednesday.

Manchester United

As for the visitors, while some have argued that it has been far from convincing, Marouane Fellaini’s last-gasp winner against Young Boys last month was enough to confirm their spot in the knockout stage of this year’s tournament. Along with holding the smallest of chances of dethroning Juventus at the top of Group H, Jose Mourinho will be boosted by Saturday’s 4-1 win over Fulham. Putting in their best performance in recent memory, their Portuguese boss believes United have a found a new-found confidence. While Mourinho is expected to make a string of changes on Wednesday, including the return of Paul Pogba, it appears that Romelu Lukaku will be given another opportunity to lead the line out in Spain. Although a dip in form may have seen him demoted to the bench, the Belgian international scored his first goal at Old Trafford since March on Saturday and now has two in his last two for the Reds.

Team News

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Paul Pogba will return to the starting line-up on Wednesday night. The Frenchman is set to start against Valencia along with Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay.

Academy players Mason Greenwood and James Garner, both 17, could also feature as they have made the trip to Spain.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Valencia and Manchester United are meeting for the eighth time in the Champions League – with the English club never having lost (winning twice and drawing five).
  • The past six competitive meetings between the sides have seen just five goals scored.
  • United are looking to win all three of their away games in the group stages for the first time since 2010-11.
  • Valencia have won just one of their last eight Champions League matches.
  • Romelu Lukaku has now scored in his last two matches on the bounce.

Conclusion

Given United’s performance in Saturday’s victory, the Red half of Manchester will be desperate for a similar performance in midweek. With Valencia so publicly struggling in the Champions League and now recording just one clean sheet in their last nine attempts, Romelu Lukaku should be relishing the chance to extend on his recent turnaround. Scoring against both Fulham and Southampton in his last two appearances, we’re backing the 25-year-old to once again find the net at the Estadio de Mestalla.

Verdict: Romelu Lukaku to score anytime 

Best Odds: 7/4

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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