PARIS, France, Nov 2 – Misfiring Manchester United and an Inter Milan who have fired coach Frank de Boer can take a welcome boost from the Europa League in matchday four of the group phase.
The epic Group phase of 12 round robin pools of four teams is remarkably close so far with only Zenit, Ajax, Shakhtar Donetsk and Schalke 04 eyeing qualification for the knock out round with Thursday wins.
Much has been made of United’s 37 shots without a goal against Burnley at the weekend, the failure to hit the ground running of 89 million pounds (110 million euros) signing Paul Pogba and the sorrowful sight of Zlatan Ibrahimovic shorn of his confidence.
United take on Turkish side Fenerbahce having thumped them 4-1 last time out as Pogba scored twice ahead of a derby boost with a 1-0 League Cup win over Man City.
“Two days ago he was the worst player in the Premier League and 48 hours later he’s phenomenal,” said manager Jose Mourinho at the time of the French midfielder, who is struggling to live up to his price tag.
Feyenoord and United are level top of Group A on six points while the Turks, led by Dick Advocaat and featuring a Robin Van Persie who scored at Old Trafford two weeks ago, have four points.
Defender Marcos Rojo felt the Burnley game could be seen as a positive
“Obviously, against City, we got the victory, and the last match, versus Burnley, we had 37 chances. A goal would have been the icing on the cake,” he said.
“We are getting to the level where we can play as a team. We are playing with a great intensity, throughout the whole of the match,” he told Sky TV this week.
Rojo is set to start and with fellow defenders Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia injured, German veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has made a shock return to first team training.
Inter Milan beat Southampton 1-0 away last time out but had been a disaster up to that point and on Wednesday they sacked De Boer.
The first-team squad will be taken over provisionally by youth team coach, Stefano Vecchi, who will be on the bench for the game against Southampton.
They sit bottom of Group K behind leaders Sparta Prague and the Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva, who stunned Inter 2-0 at the San Siro.
All this bodes well for Southampton, level second in the Group on four points. Claude Puel’s side were well beaten by resurgent Chelsea at the weekend but who earned a deserved 1-1 draw with Manchester City the week before.
In Group E Roma blew a two-goal lead and ended up drawing 3-3 at the Stadio Olimpico to Austria Vienna last time out.
They drew 0-0 at the weekend at Empoli, but even though they are second in Serie A they will do well to gain revenge when they travel to Vienna on Thursday.
The Austrians are on something of a roll having beaten league leaders Sturm Graz and city rivals Rapid in their last two league outings.
Villarreal remain unbeaten in Group L but only after battling back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Osmanlispor in Turkey.
They now host the Turks after giving up two goals in the last ten minutes in a 2-1 defeat to Eibar in La Liga on Sunday having rested and subbed several top players.
Schalke 04 have a perfect record so far in Europe but have struggled badly in the Bundesliga, where they sit two points above relegation, albeit they drew 0-0 at Dortmund at the weekend.