Aside from another stellar display from David de Gea there were few positive for Man Utd last week and it was only the Spaniard’s performance that has kept them in the tie.
The good news for the Red Devils is that 18 teams have lost away in the first leg by a two-goal margin at this stage of the competition in the past 10 years and those sides have a record of W13-D3-L2 in the return leg. However, only three of those teams actually went through and two of those did so via away goals as they’d scored in the first leg.
Looking at teams that had lost the first leg 0-2 then nine of 10 won the return and seven of the wins came to nil as the same amount had fewer than three goals. Given United will need to score four times if Liverpool manage one it is not too surprising that there is an emphasis on maintaining a clean sheet here. Expanding the sample to any knockout tie in the Europa or Champions League since 2004/05 and there are 37 incidents of home teams trying to overturn a 0-2 deficit from the first leg with 59% of the second legs having fewer than three goals and 6/37 teams fighting back to progress.
After the disappointment of the first leg, which came on the heels of a damaging defeat to West Brom in the league, United needed a late equaliser to keep their FA Cup hopes alive at the weekend so they’ve hardly been filling punters with confidence. Performances haven’t been great at Old Trafford this season but United have been hard to beat as they’ve lost just twice here in 90 minutes, thanks largely to a solid defensive record. 12 of their last 16 home matches across all competitions have been goalless at half-time as an attack that created little last week has struggled all season and it’s hard to see a significant change this week.
Liverpool have had a week off since the first leg and having struggled on the road all season this should be a real test of their ambitions for winning this competition. A repeat of the 3-1 defeat they suffered here in September would just about be good enough to progress but the 3-0 loss the season before would represent a massive choke and they will hope to go through with greater ease. Their recent away form is so wildly inconsistent it is fairly meaningless but they’ve won just one of their last nine away games in Europe. Going back further and 17 of their last 19 away matches in Europe have had fewer than three goals while 14 have had fewer than two.
There might be an onus on United to attack here but it’s too late for LvG to abandon his ‘philosophy’ and it’s hard to see them scoring four so the priority will surely be the clean sheet, at least initially. All of Liverpool’s European away matches this season have been goalless at the break and while it might not have worked for us last week we’ll stick with that bet here.
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