Sevilla v Manchester United: Red Devils will look to keep things tight in Spain

José Mourinho will be looking to plot a course to the quarter-finals
José Mourinho will be looking to plot a course to the quarter-finals
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Jack Lang is expecting a cagey encounter in the first leg of this Champions League tie...

"The crowd plays a big part at one of Spain's most atmospheric grounds – just ask Liverpool, who threw away a three-goal lead there – and a big part of United's task will be to draw the sting and slow the rhythm"

Sevilla v Manchester United
Wednesday, 19:45 GMT
Live on BT Sport 2

Hosts in handy form

Sevilla looked like an excellent match for Manchester United when the draw for the last 16 was made: the Andalusians scraped through Group E with just two wins and have never progressed past this round of the competition. But their form has picked up in recent weeks - and there is now growing belief that this side can at least make life tricky for the Red Devils over two legs.

Vincenzo Montella has not made any sweeping changes since taking over from Eduardo Berizzo - his decision to restore Steven N'Zonzi to the side has probably been the most significant single act - but there is a unity of vision that was absent before Christmas. Pablo Sarabia and Joaquín Correa have come to the fore to lend real cutting edge on the flanks, with Franco 'The Mute' Vázquez back to his creative best behind the striker.

Both Correa and Éver Banega returned to training on Monday after injury scares and are expected to play, which is a big boost for Montella. His only real dilemma is between Luis Muriel and Wissam Ben Yedder at the tip of the attack, although the selection of Jésus Navas at right-back could be more significant if United's wide men are on song.


Time to let the Pog out?

Manchester United have been doing a fine job of monopolising column inches over the last couple of weeks, although not for the usual reasons. Yes, their form has been hit-and-miss, but the real drama has been largely tangential, with VAR issues and Paul Pogba's relationship with José Mourinho taking centre stage.

The former has no bearing over the resumption of United's Champions League campaign, but the Pogba issue (if indeed there is an issue) could well do. All eyes will be on Mourinho's team sheet to see whether the French midfielder is restored to the side after missing the FA Cup win over Huddersfield with illness - and if he is, where exactly he fits into the midfield unit.

With his defensive abilities currently in question, it would count as a surprise if he and Nemanja Matić were left alone in that sector in a European away game. Mourinho will surely be thinking about Michael Carrick or Ander Herrera, and it will be intriguing to see whether Pogba is given a freer role at the expense of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard or Anthony Martial. Elsewhere, Mourinho will be hoping that Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones are fit enough to return to the side.


United likely to play it safe

Sevilla have won three games on the spin domestically and are usually a force at the Sánchez Pizjuán: they've lost just once in their last 35 games (all competitions). The crowd plays a big part at one of Spain's most atmospheric grounds - just ask Liverpool, who threw away a three-goal lead there - and a big part of United's task will be to draw the sting and slow the rhythm.

That's Mourinho's speciality, of course, and it's worth remembering United's knockout ties in the Europa League last term, three of which involved a first leg away from home. United drew 1-1 in Rostov and Anderlecht, and sneaking a 1-0 at Celta Vigo, sealing the result back at Old Trafford on each occasion.

We can probably expect a similar safety-first approach here, and while the draw holds appeal at [3.3], it's probably worth being braver and taking on the Correct Score market. Dutching the 0-1 and 1-1 scorelines yields odds of around [4.0].


Cagey battle on the cards

Those same considerations lead us to expect a game of few goals, and the current form of both sides only reinforces the conviction. Only two of Sevilla's last six games and two of United's last 10 have gone over the 2.5-goal mark, meaning a price of [1.79] on the unders looks worth taking.


Wind in Lukaku's sails

United will probably set up to play on the counter-attack, which should play into the hands of their pacy forwards. However, with question marks over Mourinho's selection, it's hard to know whether Lingard or Martial will start, meaning the safe option is probably Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian will have his tail up after a brace at Huddersfield and is [2.26] to notch.

Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2017/18

Staked: 11pts
Returned: 9.69pts
P/L: -1.31pts

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