Manchester United have an outside chance of snatching top spot in Champions League Group H when they face Valencia at the Mestalla on Wednesday night, report agencies.
Jose Mourinho’s side have already secured their place in the last 16 of the competition at the expense of their Spanish opponents, but could progress as group winners if they win and Juventus fail to beat Young Boys
It is not often that Manchester United have been able to approach matches with a relatively carefree attitude this season, but the pressure is temporarily off their shoulders for this one.
Qualification for the last 16 is already secured, and the mood around the club was lifted
further by a display of rare attacking excitement as they cruised to a 4-1 victory over Fulham on Saturday.
The Red Devils’ only win in the month prior to that Fulham victory came against Young Boys in this competition, but even that was far from convincing as United needed Marouane Fellaini’s 91st-minute winner to scrape past the Swiss minnows.
It was enough to secure a place in the knockout rounds with a game to spare, though, and Mourinho’s side will now be looking to sign off from the group stages with a third successive away win.
A trip to the Mestalla looks easier than United’s most recent away Champions League outing – a famous 2-1 victory over Juventus – and the Red Devils have now lost just one of their last 11 European matches on the road.
United have also only lost one of their last nine visits to Spain, although their general record against La Liga opposition has not been very good in recent years, winning only two of their last 14 such meetings.
Meanwhile, Valencia go into Wednesday’s match already knowing their fate, with the Europa League awaiting them in the
New Year.
Marcelino’s side have won just one of their five group games
so far this season, with that coming at home against tournament
debutants Young Boys last month.
Team News
Mourinho has already confirmed that Paul Pogba will start
against Valencia, having only made the bench for United’s last
two games.
The Portuguese hinted at other changes too, with the likes of Sergio Romero and Andreas Pereira – the latter of whom was on loan at Valencia last season – expected to feature.
Options are short in defence with Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling all injured, though, while Eric Bailly is a doubt with a muscle problem.
Mourinho could therefore be left with only Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo as centre-back options, then, although Scott McTominay has featured in that position at times this season.
Juan Mata will be hopeful of starting against his former club having scored in the win over Fulham, while Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford were also on the scoresheet.
Likewise, Valencia also have defensive concerns with Gabriel Paulista sidelined and Jose Gaya suspended.