GRANADA, Spain – Europa League first-timer Granada prepares to welcome giant Manchester United in the first leg of the quarterfinal on Thursday hoping to extend their highly impressive European campaign against the competition favorites.
The Spanish team, who had never qualified for European competition prior to this season, made it through three qualifying rounds and the group stage before taking down Napoli and Norway’s Molde in the round of 32 and last-16, respectively.
The Red Devils, on the other hand, have tasted European glory on several occasions, most recently in 2017.
Granada coach Diego Martinez said that his team would draw inspiration from the size of the task they are faced with.
“If we think too much about everything United have going for them, we wouldn’t even show up. We are facing a giant,” he said during a press conference on the eve of the game.
“So far, doing that has motivated us to push ourselves to the fullest, to compete as a team. Over 180 minutes plus added time, anything can happen,” he added.
The first leg at home will be crucial for Granada if they are to pull off an upset. In the previous two rounds, the Andalusian won the first leg at home 2-0.
But Manchester United have been highly effective on the road all season, both in the Premier League – where they are unbeaten away from home in a record 21 matches – and in the Euopa League, having thrashed Real Sociedad 0-4 in the round of 32 first leg and taken a 0-1 win back from Milan in the second leg of the round of 16.
“It’s very big for us. We have to live by the principle that the next game is the biggest game,” Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
“I’m the manager and I know that it is just the first half but it’s a big game for us. We have beaten [Real] Sociedad and Milan away and have drawn against them both at home. This game can give us even more momentum,” he added.
The English team will have to do without Anthony Martial due to injury, while Marcus Rashford is doubtful, although he could have some minutes as he took part in training on Wednesday.
Solskjaer will be able to call on Juan Mata, who has been on the sidelines since his mother’s death, and Alex Telles.
“We pick a team to win each game. This is just the first half of the leg. We have big games coming up and that’s always a conundrum,” the coach said.
“Who can play 90? Who can play four or five on the bounce? Who needs a rest? We always have a check in the morning to see how everyone is feeling,” he added.