Athletic Bilbao may have the advantage in the tie going into tomorrow’s second-leg at San Mames, however if there’s one thing history has taught us it’s that Manchester United can never be ruled out.
Whilst there’s no doubt that Marcelo Bielsa’s side deserved to win at Old Trafford, what is certain is that United on the night allowed them time and freedom on the ball and can certainly play a lot better.
Fernando Llorente up front was allowed to bully United’s young defence. Baring that in mind Rio Ferdinand, who was left out of the first-leg is likely to start and bring some solidarity and experience to Untied’s defence.
Bielsa’s side will not be wanting to sit back and hold onto their lead and will go out to attack safe in the knowledge that if they score one, it means United have to score three, a total that few away teams have achieved at San Mames.
So what can we expect from tomorrow’s game. What will be the key battles on the pitch?
Rio Ferdinand v Fernando Llorente
Bilbao’s main weapon again will undoubtedly by their star striker Llorente who will no doubt trouble Evans and the rest of United’s back-four tonight. He is strong in the air, powerful on the ball and at times can be unplayable.
After an indifferent start to the season, Ferdinand has looked back to his best in recent months and he will have the experience and responsibility to ensure that Llorente hopefully has a frustrating night to look forward to.
Michael Carrick v Iker Munain
To be dubbed Spain’s answer to Leo Messi, you have to be a special-kind-of player and the signs are that Munain has a great future ahead of him. He’s already a European Under-21 Champion and has just earned his first senior cap with Spain.
Munain showed not only his class at Old Trafford but the fact he can play well under pressure. However he will be under pressure to repeat that performance and that may well play into Carrick’s advantage allowing him to run the game instead.
Wayne Rooney v Javi Martinez
Since captaining Spain’s Under-21 side to European Championship victory, all of Europe’s biggest clubs have been linked with Martinez, who will seemingly leave Bilbao in the future to go onto bigger and better things.
The fact Martinez is comfortable in the centre of midfield as well as defence makes him a hot commodity. Rooney though is on fire and after 4 goals in his last 2 games and you wouldn’t put it past him getting the goals to fire United through.
In terms of a prediction for the game, seeing as I got my prediction wrong for the first leg as stated earlier on in a on in a predictions article, I think it’s going to be a very tense and tough night for United tomorrow in what was never going to be an easy game.
It’s not that I don’t think that they have enough quality to go to San Mames and win by two goals, it’s just that Bilbao are very good at home and I can’t see them not scoring. United might just win 2-1, which sadly will see Bielsa’s boys go through.
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87