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Starting XI: LASK vs. Manchester United

The Reds are heavy favorites to reach the Europa League quarterfinals

SV Mattersburg v LASK - tipico Bundesliga Photo by Josef Bollwein/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Thursday night’s match:

(1) On Sunday, Manchester United completed the league double over Manchester City with an impressive 2-0 win at Old Trafford. Goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay ran United’s unbeaten streak to ten — and, with little-known LASK up next, the Reds are expected to make that eleven on Thursday.

(2) Some Manchester United squad news:

  • Harry Maguire, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka — who all missed the midweek FA Cup win over Derby County — recovered from injury in time for Sunday’s derby.
  • Paul Pogba will reportedly return to full training this week at Carrington.
  • Expect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to use his squad depth for the trip to Austria — especially with a huge trip to Tottenham Hotspur looming at the weekend. Newly-extended Tahith Chong, Diogo Dalot, Axel Tuanzebe, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, and Mason Greenwood are all options.

(3) Solskjaer on playing the relatively-unknown LASK:

It’s a new experience for us to play against them. The name is not very familiar for many, I would guess, but I’ve followed Austrian football a little bit and there have been quite a few Norwegians playing there.

(4) Ole also points out that Manchester United might get a leg up from one of the new boys:

They’ve beaten Rosenborg this year, in the group stages, and of course Sporting, so Bruno has been involved against them. They beat [AZ] Alkmaar, who we’ve played in Europe. We’ll get to know more about them, but I guess Bruno can do the team talk!

Bruno told me they do play expansive football. The goalkeeper joins in a lot with the play, so it’ll be interesting.

(5) If Bruno is right about LASK’s expansive style, that makes the Linz club’s stout defense all the more impressive. LASK use a ferocious press to disrupt the opposition’s buildup play — resulting in just 20 goals allowed in 22 Austrian Bundesliga matches. It works in Europe, too. LASK have only conceded one goal at home so far in the Europa League. Manchester United have reason for optimism, though: LASK starting center backs Petar Filipovic and Philipp Wiesinger are suspended for this one.

(6) Another big loss for LASK is midfielder Thomas Goiginger, who recently suffered a knee ligament injury and will miss the rest of the season. The 26-year-old, who normally plays out on the right, provided an attacking threat with nine goals in all competitions.

(7) While most football fans are unfamiliar with LASK — which stands for Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub — Manchester United shouldn’t sleep on the Austrian upstarts. LASK lead the Austrian Bundesliga by six points over Red Bull Salzburg and enter this match winners of six from eight since their winter break. On Sunday, LASK beat Mattersburg 1-0 to move ever closer to their second league title in club history.

(8) LASK topped a very tough Europa League group (including Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven, and Rosenborg) to reach this point. When Sporting defeated LASK 2-1 in Portugal, Bruno Fernandes notched both a goal and an assist in the win. LASK will be well aware of the Portuguese attacker’s many talents.

(9) LASK boss Valerien Ismael promises that his side won’t back down:

I see it soberly — LASK has so far been little known at the international level. It is, of course, surprising to many that there is an Austrian club in the round of sixteen that is not called Salzburg. Only those who have followed our path will not underestimate us.

Sure, Manchester United are the favorites. It’s like a duel between David and Goliath. But this is our chance again. The fact is that we will not freeze in awe of Man United and only take photos for our album. We will prepare well and do our aggressive pressing. We do that, regardless of whether the opponent is Vocklamarkt or Manchester.

(10) Some late-breaking news on Thursday’s match: The LASK vs. Manchester United match at Linzer Stadion will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak across mainland Europe. LASK’s next two Austrian Bundesliga matches have also been postponed.

(11) Stat of the week: Not the most meaningful stat out there, but still pretty cool...