Man Utd prepare for Real Betis clash
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Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag could be set to ring the changes for their Europa League second leg against Real Betis on Thursday. The Red Devils have travelled to Seville for the return fixture at the Benito Villamarin with a healthy 4-1 advantage and the Dutchman could be tempted to rest several of his tired stars for the encounter with a congested fixture list coming up. United are still technically fighting on all four fronts with the Carabao Cup already in the bag, although the Premier League looks to be out of their reach.
But the Europa League is regarded as a winnable competition and, for that reason, Ten Hag will be wary about making too many alterations to his side against Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis. Express Sport looks at how United could line up in the south of Spain as they aim to make it through to the quarter-finals of the competition…
Goalkeeper – David de Gea
After some ropey performances in goal of late, De Gea looks set to retain the faith of Ten Hag for now with 36-year-old Tom Heaton lacking match practice and unlikely to be risked in a game of high importance.
The Spaniard conceded seven goals against Liverpool and was shaky in between the sticks against Betis, with Ten Hag hinting his distribution troubles are making it tougher for the 32-year-old to stay at the club beyond the summer. But for now, United are poised to keep faith in the long-serving shot-stopper.
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Defenders – Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia
Ten Hag will hope to have Victor Lindelof available again after illness and could partner him with out-of-favour captain Harry Maguire.
The Swedish defender has found himself down the pecking order behind Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Maguire this season, and this game could prove to be a rare opportunity to impress his manager.
Wan-Bissaka replaced Diogo Dalot at the half-time interval in the first leg at Old Trafford and impressed in his 45-minute cameo as United produced three second-half goals to blow away Betis while recalling Malacia will give a jaded Luke Shaw a much-needed breather.
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Midfielders – Casemiro, Fred, Scott McTominay
In a game where players need rest, Ten Hag would have loved to give Casemiro the night off. But the Brazilian’s red card for a high challenge means he is banned for four matches in the Premier League and with few replacements available, the United boss needs to keep his replacements fresh.
Instead, Bruno Fernandes could be rested with a physical three-man midfield fielded by Ten Hag to keep it tight in the midfield areas. Marcel Sabitzer would have been an ideal option to deputise for the Portuguese, but the on-loan Bayern Munich star has been sidelined with a mystery injury that kept him out of the squad for the past two matches.
He has now returned to training and could play some part in Seville, but Ten Hag may decide not to risk him from the start due to Casemiro’s impending absence in the coming weeks.
Forwards – Jadon Sancho, Wout Weghorst, Facundo Pellistri
With Alejandro Garnacho definitely out and Anthony Elanga lacking form, Ten Hag could field a strong attack with Jadon Sancho brought back into the starting lineup to replace Antony. The Brazilian was absent from Wednesday’s training session to pile on Ten Hag’s injury worries and had been ruled out due to illness.
Garnacho will miss the game after coming off injured against Southampton following a challenge from Saints’ right-back Kyle Walker-Peters. The 18-year-old’s injury was discovered after linking up with the Argentina squad and he will be out until after the international break.
Anthony Martial has been training with the rest of the group but Ten Hag is being cautious about a return, with the Frenchman currently managing the hip problem that has kept him out since the beginning of February. That means Weghorst could maintain his run of starting every game since joining on loan from Burnley.
And if Rashford is handed a rest, Facundo Pellistri could be given a start after his impressive performances from the bench.
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