This year the tide seems to be changing for English clubs in Europe. With the quarter-finals looming, there are still have five Premier League teams in the competition, one of those is Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho, who has won the competition twice as a manager, is preparing his side for the return leg against Sevilla at Old Trafford. The Red Devils failed to score in Spain, denying them that elusive away goal and any advantage going into this game. Sevilla will have their tails up here, but that stats don`t look good for them.
If we look independently at Champions League form this season, Sevilla has every reason to be worried. Manchester United has won all three of their home games, scoring an average of 2.33 goals per game and conceding an impressive 0.33 goals per game. You could say that Sevilla are a cut above the likes of Basel, Benfica and CSKA.
Looking at the away side, they`re going to have to improve defensively if they`re to progress. They`ve conceded in every single away game they have played in the Champions League, including that 2-2 at Anfield in September. It`s also worth noting that they didn`t pick up a single win on the road, drawing twice and losing away at Spartak Moscow 5-1.
If we take a look at La Liga, it`s a similar story. The side, managed by former Milan boss Vincenzo Montella, has conceded two or more goals in seven away games this season. It`s a stark contrast to Manchester United, who has lost just once at home this season, to current leader Manchester City. They have scored two or more in the last three games, conceding just once.
It`s hard to look past Jose Mourinho here but this season, at times, teams have got at Manchester United, both home and away. They were 2-0 to Burnley at home, held by Southampton and beaten away from home by Huddersfield. The trend, especially with a couple of those games is that the opposition didn`t let Manchester United settle into possession. Huddersfield smothered them from the first minute, as did Burnley at Old Trafford. If you let Manchester United dictate the tempo of the game, you`re playing into the hands of Jose Mourinho. They`ll score, keep the ball and protect that lead with everything they have. It`s classic Jose.
But this is the Champions League and we like to think that anything can, and does happen. It`s almost fourteen years to the day that Mourinho`s Porto side came to Old Trafford, as serious underdogs, and scored a 90th minute goal to send the away side through. Will we see something similar in this tie, or are Manchester United simply too strong?