Manchester United travel to Spain today ahead of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 clash with FC Barcelona on Thursday. While they will have a boost in the return of a key midfielder, one who knows a thing or two about playing against the Blaugranas, they will also miss a few players through injuries or suspension.
Casemiro returns, but Sabitzer and Martinez sit out
United’s cement between the bricks, Casemiro, returns to action for the first time since his sending off against Crystal Palace in the Premier League. He was missed in both a hectic draw and late win against Leeds United, and still has one match left on his Premier League suspension, but will be eligible to see the pitch against his old enemy, Barcelona.
Casemiro has faced Barcelona 10 times already as a Real Madrid player, losing only once in a 5-1 rout during the 2018/19 season. He’s also won on five occasions and drawn on four.
Although Casemiro is probably the most important bit of team news, the midfield will still be a bit depleted on Thursday with fresh loan signing Marcel Sabitzer suspended. The Austrian midfielder picked up three yellow cards during Bayern Munich’s UEFA Champions League group campaign, and unfortunately for both Sabitzer and United those yellow cards carry over across UEFA competitions.
Lisandro Martinez will have to sit out as well, earning a suspension in United’s group stage campaign after racking up yellow cards. The Luke Shaw centre back experiment was deployed once again at Elland Road over the weekend, and served well enough defensively. Harry Maguire filled in for Raphael Varane, but the Frenchman seems likely to return to the team for Thursday.
Sabitzer and Martinez will both be available for the return leg at Old Trafford a week from Thursday.
McTominay still out
The midfield saga continues!
While Fred, Casemiro’s Brazil national team partner, is fit for the visit to Spain, Scott McTominay continues to miss time with an undisclosed injury. The Scotsman’s place in the starting lineup was gradually, and expectedly, handed over to Casemiro after his arrival, but he was still a regular in cup competitions and off the bench for United until suffering an unknown injury in January that has kept him out of the squad for a few weeks now.
With Sabitzer suspended, Fred-Casemiro is the obvious pivot choice, and it’s likely we’ll see some combination of youngsters on the bench in support. Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal were the choices in the last couple matches.
Antony and Anthony Martial absent from training
Finally, United’s forward line will need require some tinkering again. Both Antony and Anthony Martial were absent from training on Wednesday before the team’s departure for Spain. While Martial has missed the last several matches, and indeed much of the season through injury, Antony is a recent addition to the injury list. He missed the 2-0 win at Elland Road over the weekend, and it appears he is once again unavailable.
A front three of Sancho-Weghorst-Rashford started the match on Sunday, with Rashford staying on the whole match and scoring once again from the centre forward role after Alejandro Garnacho’s introduction. The Argentine youngster bagged a goal for himself too, and it’s very likely he will play a big part on Thursday.