Manchester United v Valencia, Champions League

Chris Smalling and a leaky defence have cost United dearly this season

Man United v Valencia, Tue 2nd October, 8pm, RTE 2 / BT Sport 1

Form:

These are two sides that have already had considerable trouble this season. Pressure is mounting game-on-game for José Mourinho at Manchester United.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to West Ham marked a new low in a season of woe for last year’s League runners up. Four defeats, three wins. and a draw in all competitions so far illustrates Mourinho’s struggles in extracting consistent performance from his squad.

Valencia picked up their first win of the season against Real Sociedad after a run of five draws and a defeat. Their manager Marcelino García Toral will be seeking an improved rate of return from their strikers, on-loan Chelsea striker, Michy Batshuayi being amongst them. Their total of just five goals from seven league games tells its own story.

The Match:

While both sides have struggled for results, it’s striking in how their struggles have differed.

United for all their financial capability has still managed to end up with a defence that is incapable of producing a clean sheet. One in all competitions at this stage in the season is poor in the extreme.

While they did enjoy three home wins in the group stages of the Champions League last year, their exit from the competition at the hands of another Spanish side in the form of Sevilla, will still resonate with fans and followers.

Valencia’s return to Europe’s elite competition for the first time in since 2015 when they meekly exited at the group stages. They subsequently departed the Europa League at the very next opportunity.

They’re likely to struggle to escape their group once again with United and Juventus primed to progress. They’ll be hoping for safe passage to the Europa League on that basis.

This season’s early European form looks good from the Manchester club’s perspective – they were comfortable winners against Young Boys in Switzerland while Valencia were over-run by a ten man Juventus side for the majority of their game in the Mestalla stadium.

In terms of their head to head record, there’s little to gleamed from their eight encounters since 1982. It’s a decade since they last met, United have a narrow winning record, of two games to one, the remaining five matches ended in a draw.

Team News:

Another source of drama and intrigue at Old Trafford is how the team selections are betraying the various feuds and losses of form the run up and down the squad.

Alexis Sanchez seems to tick both boxes. Being dropped entirely from the match day squad for the loss to West Ham is said to have infuriated the Chilean. He is however, expected to feature against Valencia. As is another problem player at the club, Paul Pogba. They’re expected to be joined by Romelu Lukaku. Mourinho will be aiming to draw attention away from Manchester United’s league form by succeeding in Europe. It’s unlikely he’ll play a weakened side at any point during the competition.

Valencia could be without striker Santi Mina, after the 22-year-old missed their last two games with a knee injury. Otherwise the visitors have a clean bill of health.

Verdict:

Expect United to start quickly. They score, on average per game, a first half goal every game, that average falls to 0.4 goals in their second halves.

They clearly lack in terms of organisation at the back, their defence is leaky, on average per game – 0.7 in the first half and 1.0 in the second.

Valencia have managed to score equalisers from losing positions on three occasions this season already. Add to that their 5 league draws and you have a team playing with spirit and focus. Something the former Premier League champions are sorely lacking.

Manchester United to lead at half time and get pegged back for a draw.

Half-Time/Full-Time

Man Utd/Draw 12/1

Quoted prices correct as of 16:48 01/10/18


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