It’s an uphill battle for Real Betis as they welcome Manchester United to the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville on Thursday night. Who will book their place in the Europa League quarter-finals? We turn to the Opta supercomputer to preview and predict the game.
The Quick Hits:
- Marcus Rashford looking for his 25th European goal for Manchester United.
- Betis have only progressed once in six attempts in Europe after losing the first leg.
- The supercomputer was rightly bullish on United in the first leg and they’ll do it again according to our Opta prediction.
- The Reds have a 48.2% chance of winning on the night.
Real Betis welcome Manchester United to the Estadio Benito Villamarin on Thursday night after taking a 4-1 beating in the first leg at Old Trafford. It was the first game between these two sides but it’s one Betis and their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, will want to forget. It is the kind of game United manager, Erik ten Hag, will be keen to replicate despite a confusing couple of weeks for his side.
How difficult is the task Betis face? Of all teams to win by a 3+ goal margin in the first leg of a UEFA Europa League knockout tie since the 2009-10 season, only one has ever been eliminated: Basel vs. Valencia in the 2013-14 quarter-final (won 3-0 first leg, lost 5-0 second leg). Real Betis have only progressed from one of their previous six major European ties when they have lost the first leg, overcoming a 1-0 first-leg loss to Vejle BK in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 1998-99 to win 5-1 in the second leg.
United have already knocked out Xavi’s Barcelona, who sit at the top of LaLiga, and look set to do the same to Betis. The Spanish side are currently fifth in the league and might have one eye on a push for the Champions League places rather than chasing an almost unassailable 4-1 deficit.
United have the opposite conundrum. They are gung-ho for the Europa League with a top four finish in the Premier League looking promising. It would take a mighty effort by two of Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United or Liverpool to pip them and none of those teams have shown the kind of consistency needed to put together that kind of run. They have already won the Carabao Cup and remain in the FA Cup. A double would exceed expectations in Ten Hag’s first year but the treble is still very much on.
United will be familiar with the flight from Manchester Airport to Spain’s various cities but Sevilla is the destination this time. Including this game, five of Man United’s last seven away European games have been in Spain – they haven’t lost any of their last four (W2 D2), beating Real Sociedad and drawing at Barcelona this season alone. They have also played Villarreal and Celta Vigo in the Europa League in recent years with mixed success, losing to the former in the final under Ole Gunnar Solskjær and beating the latter in the semi-final under Jose Mourinho.
In team news, Alejandro Garnacho will miss several weeks with ankle ligament injury but aside from that, Ten Hag has no new injury worries to contend with. Christian Eriksen remains a long-term injury while Anthony Martial is back in training. The home side have a clean bill of health aside from the long-term injury to Nabil Fekir. Sergio Canales is fit and ready to go after only playing 30 minutes in the first leg.
Manchester United 4-1 Real Betis: 9 March 2023 (UEFA Europa League)
This is Real Betis’ first home European game against an English side since November 2005, when they beat Chelsea 1-0 in the UEFA Champions League group stages. A similar score won’t cut the mustard on Thursday night. They’ll need to win by three to bring the game to extra-time after Marcus Rashford, Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst scored last week. Ayoze Perez equalised after Rashford’s early strike in the first half but Erik ten Hag’s side blitzed Betis in the second. Truth be told, it could have been worse.
United had 25 shots in total and 13 of those were on target compared to Betis’ six, two of which made David de Gea work. Ten Hag’s side dominated every facet of the game.
Manchester United have had mixed results in the last two weeks. It might be due to a slight hangover from the Carabao Cup victory over Newcastle – the first trophy under Ten Hag – but since then they have been humiliated by Liverpool at Anfield, hammered Real Betis in the Europa League and then followed that up with an uninspiring scoreless draw with relegation candidates Southampton with Casemiro seeing a second red in three games in the league.
In United’s defence, they are in proverbial no man’s land in the Premier League with little pressure coming from below them for third place and no chance of catching Arsenal and Manchester City. The Europa League offers them some salvation this season, so it makes sense that some of their best performances have come in the competition – their two performances against Barcelona and the first leg against Real Betis showed us what this team is capable of with everything on the line.
Pellegrini rang the changes against Manchester United last week with 41-year-old Joaquín leading the line against the Red Devils. The Chilean left Borja Iglesias, his best striker, on the bench for the game. It has led to some debate in Spain over where Pellegrini’s focus truly lies. Or maybe he is just picking a very peculiar time to start experimenting with different lineups. Real Sociedad are stumbling in LaLiga (and also face an uphill battle in the Europa League against AS Roma) and Betis are knocking on the door of the top four. They followed up their schooling at Old Trafford with a draw against Villarreal. That makes it two draws in two in LaLiga after they drew a blank against Real Madrid the week before.
Players to Watch
Real Betis: Sergio Canales
Manuel Pellegrini held the magician from Santander out of Betis’ starting XI against United in the first leg. He was coming back from an injury, but it was another point in the debate arguing that Betis are focusing on LaLiga and their top-four tilt. The bottom line is that Sergio Canales is Betis’ most important player. They have a very small chance of progressing out of this tie after the first leg result but without Canales, they have no chance.
Manchester United: Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford has scored 24 goals in major European competition for Manchester United and could become only the sixth player to score 25 such goals for the Red Devils. If he were to score – he’ll be 25 years and 136 days old on the day of this game – he’d become the youngest player to reach 25 major European goals for the club. He would also be the youngest Englishman to score 25 goals in major European competitions in history.
Five of those goals have come this season across 455 minutes of action in the Europa League.
Real Betis vs Man Utd Prediction
Our supercomputer was overwhelmingly confident about Manchester United in the first leg. The supercomputer was right. It is less confident of a United victory this time around, but still gives them a healthy 48.2% of winning.
The consensus is that Real Betis are playing for pride at this stage of the tie. They will have to beat United by three goals just to bring it to extra-time on Thursday night. The supercomputer gives them a 26.3% chance of winning the game.