Sevilla and Manchester United will meet for the first time in the Europa League in the first semi-final of the 2019-20 campaign at The RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne. The one-off last four fixture is scheduled to take place tonight and the winner of the tie will face either Inter Milan or Shakhtar Donetsk in the final next Friday at the same venue.
Though, many of us would've loved to see Manchester United and Sevilla clash in the final, tonight, when the two former champions go head-to-head we can expect it to be one of the most entertaining games of the season.
Both the sides have seen a great run of form since resuming their season back in June and ended their domestic league campaigns on a high.
Sevilla are now 19 games unbeaten in all competitions and they couldn't have hit top form at a better time. They defeated Roma and Wolves en route to the last four working like a well-oiled machine.
Manchester United finished third in the Premier League and were the favourites to win the Europa League but their sluggish performance against Copenhagen has cast a shadow of doubt over their chances of heading into the final.
Manchester United might've breezed through the competition to reach the semi-final but they face their litmus test against Sevilla, one of the most successful sides in the history of the competition. They have a 100% record in the semi-final and have won the competition on the five occasions they have made it to this stage since 2006.
Some of the competition's most in-form players will be in action in when these two sides meet tonight and here we take a look at the 5 top players who can make a difference in the game.
Five key players to watch out for in Manchester United's semi-final showdown against Sevilla:
#5 Éver Banega (Sevilla)
Éver Banega has emerged as the backbone of Sevilla this season and displayed his positional awareness and shrewd distribution skills to almost single-handedly dictate his side's attacking play.
The 32-year-old midfielder is the only player from Sevilla's starting XI in their 2-1 win over United the 2017-18 Champions League Round of 16 clash still playing regularly for the Andalusians.
Banega attempted 86.3 passes per 90 minutes during the league campaign, the second-highest of all midfielders in La Liga, most of those were into the final third with 104 of his passes resulting in shots on goal.
He was on top of his game in their win over Wolves in the quarter-final fixture as almost everything went through Banega who ended the game with 139 touches and completed 109 passes. He also bagged the assist for the winner in the 88th minute from a free-kick.
He has three assists in five appearances in the competition so far and generated 2.2 key passes a game as well. Though his contributions are not visible in the stats it is quite evident that he pulls all the strings in the middle of the park for Julen Lopetegui's men and stopping him is a must for United.
#4 Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
Anthony Martial has been Manchester United's player of the season so far and will be one of the players that everyone, especially Sevilla's defenders would need to keep an eye on tonight.
He has stepped up in the role as a central striker this season and filled in the void left by Romelu Lukaku's departure wonderfully. He scored 17 goals in the Premier League, the most non-penalty goals scored by a player in the seven years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United.
He has been in fine form since the lockdown and his understanding with Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood has been crucial to Manchester United's exploits in the front of the goal in the last two months.
He will likely lead the attack once again against Sevilla and we could expect another scintillating performance from him, as we have seen him do often this term.
Also See: 5 reasons why Manchester United will struggle against Sevilla | UEFA Europa League 2019-20
#3 Sergio Reguilón (Sevilla)
Sevilla have been highly effective in attacking from the flanks this season and most of their success can be attributed to their pair of highly skilled full-backs, Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilón. They will play a crucial role against Manchester United tonight.
Though it is Navas who has made numerous runs from the right flank and sent in top quality crosses for his team, his partner at left-back Reguilón, will be a key man for them against Manchester United tonight.
The 23-year-old defender has been highly impressive in his loan spell with Los Palanganas and was La Liga's best left-back this term ahead of Alba and Marcelo.
One of the his bigest strengths is his reading of the game and concentration which means that he is rarely caught on the wrong foot. The young Spaniard is equally comfortable on both ends of the pitch, scoring three goals, providing four assists and also making 1.7 tackles per 90 and 1.4 clearances per 90 across all competitions. Manchester United will have to be focussed to thwart the threat from Sevilla's full-backs.
#2 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Not to sound cliched, but Manchester United's January signing Bruno Fernandes will likely be their most important player against Sevilla. The midfielder scored the winner in the intense quarter-final clash against Copenhagen in extra-time to take his tally to 7 for the season, making him the top-scorer at the tournament.
The player has breathed a new life into his side and since his arrival, there has been a steep improvement at both ends of the pitch for Manchester United as they have 13 clean sheets across all competitions since his first game and have found the back of the net 50 times.
He was as influential as ever in the quarter-final as well and was denied a goal in the second half as his speculative strike came off the post. Sevilla are a highly disciplined and solid defensive side and can suffocate Manchester United's forwards of service from open play.
Given that 13 of Bruno Fernandes' 27 goals in the 2019-20 campaign have come from the penalty spot he might have to adopt a different approach against Sevilla tonight to leave his mark and guide Manchester United to the final.
#1 Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla)
It's evident that the strength of both sides heading into the fixture is their defence, having conceded only four goals apiece throughout their respective campaigns. Against a stubborn defence, you need a tenacious forward with an eye for the goal but he should also be versatile to latch onto any opportunity that he can find.
In that respect, Sevilla's top scorer this season, Lucas Ocampos is one of the best players suited to thrive in a game like this. The Argentine winger has produced a return of 17 goals this season, including his first in the Europa League in their win over Wolves on Tuesday night.
He is one of Sevilla's fastest players despite his six foot two frame, he is also technically gifted and strong on the ball. Combine all that with his aggressive and direct style and you get a modern attacker who has all the abilities to wreak havoc in oppositon's defence.
He is also the player for big moments and scores goals at crucial moments for his team as 13 of his 17 goals this season have been decisive in terms of giving his side the lead in the game or have helped in mounting a comeback.
Manchester United cannot relax until they keep him in check and their ability to do so will have a pronounced effect on the outcome of the game.