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Champions League: Manchester United Host Atalanta in Must-Win Match


Champions League: Manchester United Host Atalanta in Must-Win Match

Manchester United vs Atalanta

Manchester United are in a real slump at the moment. They have won just two of their last seven matches in all competitions, which has put the pressure back on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Solskjaer and the Red Devils now face a must-win situation when they host dangerous Atalanta at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

La Dea are currently top of Group F with a win and a draw in their first two games, and they will be keen to defy the Champions League 2021 betting odds when they visit the Theatre of Dreams.

Talking Points

Solskjaer under pressure again

Manchester United will head into this Champions League tie in an awful run of form. They slumped to a 4-2 defeat away to Leicester this past weekend, which is their fourth defeat in the last seven games.

They have just two wins during that stretch, and on both occasions needed late winning goals from Jesse Lingard (against West Ham) and Cristiano Ronaldo (in the Champions League against Villarreal) to grab all three points.

This recent poor run of results has once again strengthened calls for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be sacked. The Norwegian needs a win to silence his critics, but he will be without a key player against Atalanta.

Centre-back Raphael Varane will still be out due to a groin injury he suffered on international duty, which will be a huge blow to a United defence that has kept just one clean sheet thus far this season.

Captain Harry Maguire shook off his own injury issue and played on the weekend, but he had a poor game and was at fault for one of Leicester’s goals.

On the bright side, Marcus Rashford made a strong return from shoulder surgery as he scored the equaliser against Leicester after coming on as a substitute. Rashford will be a candidate to replace the disappointing Jadon Sancho, who has yet to record a goal or assist in nine games for United.

Atalanta attack not as prolific, but still effective

Atalanta are back on track after a slightly rocky start to the season. La Dea have won four out of their last six games in all competitions, including an emphatic 4-1 away win at Empoli over the weekend.

That was actually the first time Atalanta had scored over two goals in a game this season. The free-scoring Atalanta that wowed Italy and Europe over the last few years has slowed considerably as their star attacking players have gotten older.

But coach Gian Piero Gasperini is still getting the most out of his squad and his trio of ageing forwards, Josip Ilicic, Duvan Zapata, and Luis Muriel. Ilicic bagged a brace against Empoli, his first goals of the season. Meanwhile, Zapata is having another strong start to the season with four goals and four assists in eight games.

Atalanta’s already limited attack will be hurt by the absence of wing-back Robin Gosens and midfielder Matteo Pessina, who both picked up thigh injuries and will miss both matches against Manchester United. The two have produced key Champions League 2021 highlights with two of the team’s three Champions League goals thus far and will be sorely missed.

But Mario Pasalic stepped up in Pessina’s place as he had two assists in the Empoli win. Meanwhile, Joakim Maehle is a capable replacement for Gosens out on the left-hand side.

History

This is set to be the first-ever meeting between Manchester United and Atalanta in any European competition.

United have a good deal of experience facing Italian sides, though. They went through both AC Milan and Roma en route to the Europa League final last season. Moreover, they are an impressive 14-3-3 in 20 home matches against Italian opposition.

On the other side, Atalanta have faced English clubs six times in European competition, all of which have come in the last four years. They beat Everton in both of their Europa League group matches in 2017. That includes a famous 5-1 win at Goodison Park.

However, they suffered a 5-1 thrashing themselves when they visited Manchester City in the Champions League group stage in 2019.

But last season, they went into Anfield and stunned Liverpool 2-0. That was after the Reds had thumped Atalanta 5-0 in the first meeting in Italy.

Betting Tip

Under 3.00 @ 2.08

Despite Manchester United’s recent struggles, SBOTOP odds still have them as 1.82 favourites to win at Old Trafford, with Atalanta priced at 3.90. Meanwhile, a draw is 3.80.

Many anticipate this match to be a high-scoring affair given the attacking talent on both sides coupled with some defensive shortcomings.

However, I expect this to be a cagey affair. Solskjaer could set up his side to be a bit more cautious to avoid another defeat. And Atalanta could similarly be hesitant to go all-out in attack and just play it a bit safe away from home, where a draw would suit them just fine.

Don’t expect too many goals.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 


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