Manchester United – Copenhagen preview: Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken isn’t disguising his happiness that a bid to oust tournament favorites Manchester United from the Europa League will be contested over just one leg thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
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“It is a great advantage for us that it is decided over one match on neutral ground and without spectators, than if we had to meet them both home and away,” he said on the club’s official site.
The entire tie will be staged at 3 pm ET Monday, the same time that Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan meets Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s got his stars on show and opts for a couple of surprises at the back in Eric Bailly and Brandon Williams.
Ex-United prospect Guillermo Varela starts for Copenhagen, the biggest underdogs of the round.
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As for Inter and Bayer, there’s going to be a lot of fun in store for neutrals.
The Serie A side has a lot of experience on big stages, with Diego Godin, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young in Conte’s Starting XI.
Kai Havertz leads Bayer Leverkusen’s attack, the Bundesliga side hoping for a UEL crown that would put them back in the Champions League.
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Know the opponent: Copenhagen
The Danish Superliga runners-up stumbled down the stretch to finish four points ahead of third but well behind title-winning Midtjylland. Ousted from the Champions League by Red Star Belgrade in penalty kicks, defending has been an issue.
Players of a 4-4-2 for many of their recent outings, Copenhagen has won their last two in a 4-2-3-1. You may see ex-Manchester United prospect Guillermo Varela and former Sunderland and Everton player Bryan Oviedo.
Here are the highlights of the Round of 16 defeat of Istanbul Basekshir. Jonas Wind led the way in the 3-0 triumph at home, overcoming the 1-0 first leg loss in Turkey.
How they got here
Copenhagen had nearly five months to lament their 1-0 first leg deficit to Istanbul Basaksehir, then unloading on the Turkish powers via a 3-0 second leg in Denmark.
Copenhagen began their UEL run all the way back in the champions’ route of the playoff round, beating Latvia’s Riga before finishing second to Malmo in Group B. It then beat Celtic to get to the Round of 16 tie with Basaksehir.
United went 4-1-1 in the group stage, a loss to Astana on the penultimate match day no big deal thanks to a home pounding on AZ Alkmaar on the final day to win Group I.
The Red Devils pounded Club Brugge and LASK Linz over two legs to seal a space in the quarterfinals and are significant favorites to win the UEL. Their +180 odds through DraftKings are ahead of Inter Milan (+325) and Sevilla (+500).
What they’re saying
Man Utd’s Sergio Romero on the nature of his club: “As a group of players, if we have a team-mate who is struggling a bit on the day, all the lads have to give him a lift, so he can compete in the game in the best possible way. For sure, every bit of work and effort every day in training, as well as all our dreams are focused on getting United back to another Europa League final. So, we’re going to work hard for that to happen.”
Copenhagen boss Solbakken: “We have to meet the best Premier League team since the coronavirus break, and have, among other things, seen how they beat LASK 5-0 with a B-team, so no matter who they field, we naturally have great respect. … They have a lot of quick players, they play fast and they’ve been good on the counter since Bruno Fernandes came, and they also combine very fast around the field. So there is a lot you can get nervous about, but we have to stick to our own plan and see how far it can take us.”
The one-legged nature of this round changes the nature of the competition, as class will generally win out over 180 minutes. Ninety (plus) brings a bigger chance of an upset, with Manchester United at -385 and Copenhagen still the biggest underdog of the round at +1000.
The match won’t be without scares, but even an empty Old Trafford bears its advantages. United emerges with a 3-1 win.