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Celta Vigo vs Manchester United: Europa League match preview; likely line-ups and score prediction

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The first meeting between the two sides could not come at a more pivotal time, being the first European semi-final in Celta Vigo’s history and a crucial opportunity for Manchester United to return to the Champions League after three seasons away from Europe’s most elite competition. Neither side has reached the Europa League final before and will be looking to enter the history books starting with Thursday night’s first leg in Galicia on the north west coast of Spain.

Recent Form

Celta Vigo have been in woeful league form, with a disappointing campaign seeing them 11th in La Liga and coming into the tie on the back of three consecutive defeats with only one win from their last six domestic games. That said, they have rested their star men for a number of those games with the Europa League providing a welcome distraction as they have beaten Genk and Krasnodar as well as shocking Shakhtar Donetsk to get this far.

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Victories over Anderlecht, Rostov and Saint Etienne in the knock out stages of the Europa League have been more difficult than many expected, though they have been eased by a 23 game unbeaten run in the Premier League. However, two consecutive draws mean that fans haven’t had much to shout about in recent weeks, and Jose Mourinho will be looking for a positive result at Balaidos on Thursday night.

Likely Line-Ups

Celta Vigo predicted starting XI                  Manchester United predicted starting XI

Celta Vigo made a number of changes at the weekend to rest key figures such as Iago Aspas and John Guidetti but all are expected to return to the line-up to face Manchester United, including the former Liverpool and Manchester City duo.

Jose Mourinho faces some tough decisions, with the key one likely to be whether to field Matteo Darmian or Michael Carrick in central defence. Carrick defied expectations to play 180 minutes in three days last week and is unlikely to do so again this week, allowing Ashley Young to step in for Darmian on the left. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard will be competing for a place up-front with Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba both expected to return.

Team News

Reserve goalkeeper Ruben Blanco and left-back Carles Planas are the only key players missing for Celta Vigo with thigh and knee problems, whilst former United starlet Guiseppe Rossi will also miss out on the opportunity to play against his former side with a cruciate knee ligament injury likely to keep him out for the rest of the season.

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United are facing something of a defensive injury crisis with Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly the latest players to join the list, though Bailly could make a return sooner. However, he is unlikely to feature on Thursday despite training on Wednesday. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also returned to training alongside the Ivory Coast international but are unlikely to be risked after a prolonged spell on the sidelines. Marcos Rojo and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already been ruled out until well into next year, but fellow summer signing Paul Pogba could make a return on Thursday after a hamstring strain.

Score Prediction: Celta Vigo 1-1 Manchester United

It will likely be a cagey affair with neither side likely to risk anything in the first leg. United have struggled away from home at times and are unlikely to overwhelm Celta as some fans may expect, but their quality should be enough to see them return to the UK with plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by DiegoAlonsoGp.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Celta Vigo

Who is Tottenham’s Ross Barkley alternative, Celta Vigo’s Pape Cheikh Diop?

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Tottenham

Tottenham could be considering their options as The Sun say that they are casting an eye over Celta Vigo midfielder Pape Cheikh Diop as a potential alternative to Everton contract rebel Ross Barkley.

Who is he?

A Spanish youth international, Pape Cheikh Diop is an exciting young talent playing for La Liga side Celta Vigo. The 20-year-old emerged as a first team option last season and is an active member of Spain’s under 19 squad.

Where has he been?

Originally from Senegal, he moved to Spain aged 14 in 2011 and was immediately picked up by local team Club Internacional de la Amistad, before joining Montañeros CF in 2012. Then, top flight side Celta Vigo came in in 2013 and took him into their youth set-up.

He then spent two seasons with the club’s B team in the third division, also making his first team debut in 2015 as a substitute. Last season saw him earn his first start and he became a regular in the side towards the end of the season.

What’s his style of play?

The 20-year-old is a versatile option who can play anywhere from a holding role to a more advanced attacking position. In the past he has also featured out wide. He is good at breaking up play and often looks to get forward on the ball with dribbling runs through the middle once in possession.

His inexperience has led him to be a little rash with his tackling at times, conceding needless free-kicks. His other weakness is his lack of aerial strength, not helped despite being a reasonable height as just below 6ft.

What would his arrival mean for Tottenham?

Given that Pochettino is unlikely to add two central midfielders to his squad given the options already available to him, it seems inevitable that a move for the La Liga ace would spell an end to interest in Barkley. As such, it may be a negotiating ploy by Tottenham to make Barkley’s team lower their demands. Alternatively, Mauricio Pochettino and co. may genuinely be considering Diop as an option in midfield.

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Celta Vigo

Who is Celta Vigo’s Pape Diop, the midfielder currently linked with a summer move to Tottenham?

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Diop

According to reports coming from ESPN over the past day, Tottenham are setting their sights on signing young Celta Vigo midfielder Pape Cheikh Diop this summer window.

With the Spanish side currently in England for pre-season friendlies against Brentford and Premier League side Burnley, the Daily Mail believes that scouts from across the top-flight will watch him play.

Although the north London side are yet to submit a formal offer for the 19-year-old, as of yet, it is possible that Tottenham will send someone to Griffin Park on Saturday to keep a close eye on Diop.

Who is Pape Cheikh Diop?

Born in Senegal in 1997, Diop moved to Spain at 14 years of age, and after two years playing for local teams Club Internacional de la Amistad and Montaneros CF, he moved to Celta Vigo’s youth system.

After featuring 21 times for Celta’s ‘B’ team he was finally awarded his full first-team debut in December 2015, coming on as a late substitute for Nolito as his side won 1-0 against RCD Espanyol.

Despite dropping back into the ‘B’ team for the best part of six months, Diop has been given an extended run of first-team action in the season just gone, making 13 appearances.

He scored his first La Liga goal during a 3-1 win over relegated Granada in November 2016 and continued to catch the eye, being rewarded for solid displays with a contract extension until 2021.

At an international level, Diop has also represented both Spain’s Under-18 and Under-19 team in recent years, helping the latter win the European Under-19 Championship in 2015.

Does he have the promise to succeed at White Hart Lane?

There is certainly a lot of hype surrounding the 19-year-old this summer, with it being said around Spain that Diop has the potential to become the future midfield powerhouse of the national team.

Strong and physical despite his tender years he is the definition of a box-to-box midfielder in the middle of the park, having a level of fitness and stamina that allows him to run effortlessly until the final whistle.

He is an incredibly dogged and determined player, the type that plays with his heart on his sleeve regardless of the match situation, and this attitude could really lift spirits around White Hart Lane.

Although it is highly unlikely that he would be able to knock either Mousa Dembele or Victor Wanyama from their midfield starting roles anytime soon, he is undoubtedly a very highly-rated player that has a big future at the top level if he continues, and Mauricio Pochettino could help his development.

It is well-known that the Argentine has a soft spot for developing good young talent – his work with Harry Winks, Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers shows this – and Diop could thrive at Tottenham.

How likely is a move?

After signing a contract extension until 2021 only recently it’s likely that Celta Vigo will play extremely hard to get should any Premier League side come calling, wanting to hold on to Diop.

But Tottenham have the funds to lure him to London after not spending a penny so far, and the Premier League’s reputation itself could play a huge part in persuading the Spaniard to the club.

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Are Manchester United deserved favourites for the Europa League title?

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From unwanted distraction to top priority, Manchester United‘s path to the Europa League final in Stockholm on Wednesday 24th May has been an odd one. Nonetheless, they still face a tough challenge before fans can begin to book flights to Sweden, as United look to join Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Ipswich Town in having won Europe’s secondary competition.

With sides from Spain, France and Holland all looking to stand in their way, it certainly won’t be an easy task for United, despite their tag of firm favourites.Although, as the competition enters the final four, United looking increasingly confident and increasingly committed to winning the trophy.

Here, we take a look at who they will have to overcome if they are to win the Europa League title for the first time in their history…

Celta Vigo

The Spanish side will look to keep the trophy in Spain after Sevilla won the Europa League three years on the trot, following in the footsteps of Atletico Madrid, who won it twice in three years before them. The Galicians face Manchester United in the semi-final but will certainly be no pushovers.

Having beaten Real Madrid over two legs in the Copa del Rey, and having taken three points off Barcelona this season, there is every reason to believe that former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas and his team-mates can provide a real challenge to United in the penultimate round of the competition.

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There is no denying that there is a lack of real star quality that some of their competitors possess, but their squad is a strong one. Captain Hugo Mallo has been linked with Barcelona of late, whilst their strike partnership sees two former Premier League players combine in Iago Aspas and former Manchester City striker John Guidetti.

Read on over the next few pages to see what the Red Devils can expect from their other competitors…

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