Home » Europa League, Europe, Latest » EL Match Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs Man United

Athletic Bilbao are in the driving seat ahead of the second leg of their Europa League clash with Manchester United following a 3-2 win at Old Trafford.

The Primera Liga club stunned many by securing a remarkable success at the Theatre of Dreams, although it could have been much worse for Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops had it not been for Wayne Rooney’s injury-time penalty.

Iker Muniain’s late strike looked to have almost guaranteed Bilbao a place in the quarter-finals only for Rooney to give the Red Devils a glimmer of hope for the San Mames clash.

The first-leg result means as a minimum that United need to score at least twice to progress while a goal for the home side means the visitors would then require three goals to advance on aggregate.

Only twice have the Manchester giants overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit, their famous 1984 triumph over Barcelona with the other coming in January 1957 following a 3-0 second-leg win over Bilbao at Maine Road.

Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa is hoping his team can replicate their display in Manchester, a performance that won high praise.

“I believe that on one night or in one match a team like Athletic can get very close to the level of opponents such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United,” stated the Argentinian.

Team news

Ferguson has a number of big decisions to make regarding team selection ahead of their must-win clash in Spain on Thursday evening.

Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney all started Sunday’s Premier League success over West Brom, meaning Dimitar Berbatov is likely to again settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.

United are boosted by the return of Ecuador international winger Antonio Valencia, who is available following a four-week absence due to a hamstring injury.

The ex-Wigan Athletic man has trained this week and gives the visitors a useful option out wide with Nani among those who did not travel to northern Spain.

Midfielder Anderson is definitely out due to a hamstring strain while Phil Jones (flu) is also missing along with England international defender Chris Smalling (head).

For the home side Bielsa is playing a cagey game regarding team selection, although he did reveal midfielder Oscar de Marcos, one of last week’s goalscorers, was doubtful after being struck down by a flu virus.

Target-man Fernando Llorente is expected to lead the line for Bilbao with support from Muniain and Markel Susaeta.

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