UEL PREVIEW: Manchester United heads to Celta Vigo

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Balaidos is the scene for Thursday’s UEFA Europa League semifinal first leg between Celta Vigo and Manchester United, and the visitors received welcome injury news this week.

It’s expected the headline would be Paul Pogba any time the influential midfielder is part of the returning group, but given United’s bare bones center back corps it’s just as notable that Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones trained ahead of Thursday’s match.

Celta’s attack is led by a pair of Premier League outcasts in Iago Aspas (24 goals) and John Guidetti (8), and manager Eduardo Berizzo rested both this weekend in a 3-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao.

While the home fans wouldn’t have enjoyed that, Aspas and Guidetti will be fresh to tangle with, presumably, Smalling and Bailly at the back.

Celta won’t be heading back to Europe next season unless it wins the UEL, with the club sitting 11th in La Liga’s table. And form isn’t exactly good for Celta, winless in four overall and on a three-match losing streak (albeit at less than full strength this weekend, as stated).

United won’t be pleased at having dropped points against Swansea City this weekend, but the draw did stretch its club record unbeaten run to 25 matches.

But will they be too tired?

“We had too many problems, to many players absent – because of that, we had players that had to play 750 or 800 minutes of football and we paid the price. We played against fresh teams and were in accumulation. At this moment, the perspective is different, because the Europa League becomes even more important for us. It’s good to have three players back that give us more options.”

Celta also played nine matches in April, so don’t expect any tears of pity coming from the home dugout.