Who Could United Face In Champions League Qualifying Play-Off

Champions league qualifying play-off

Manchester United may have finished fourth in the Premier League, but they still have work to do to qualify for the Champions League proper.

United face a qualifying round at the start of next season to get through to the money spinning league phase and could have to manoeuvre through a tricky tie against the likes of Monaco, Sporting Lisbon, Lazio or CSKA Moscow.
The Red Devils will be the top seeded club in the round, meaning they will avoid the likes of Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax, but there are still some dangerous teams to navigate past.

So who could be standing in United’s way? These are the teams United could face in the qualifying round:

Sporting Lisbon

Sporting finished third in the Portuguese league, partly due to the form of Nani, who spent the season on loan from United.

Nani is due to return to United and may line up against his former side, which features the likes of Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho – rumoured to have been a transfer target for United in the past – and Algerian hit man Islam Slimani.

CSKA Moscow

Russian runners-up CSKA could prove a stubborn hurdle to jump should United draw them out of the hat.

Moscow is never an easy place to play and United’s forwards would need to get past the defences of Russian international goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to help them progress.

The Russian side also boast the talents of Russia’s attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev, as well as former United player Zoran Tosic, who failed to make any impression at Old Trafford during his time in Manchester and may have a point to prove against his former employers.

Lazio

The Italians finished behind Juventus and Roma in Serie A and would provide stiff opposition should United be drawn to play them.

United will be abundantly aware of the pace and skill of Felipe Anderson, who they have rumoured to have been courting, but Louis van Gaal will also have an insight to any defensive frailty the Italians may possess having included Dutchman Stefan de Vrij in his World Cup squad last year.

Lazio can also count on the services of veteran German striker Miroslav Klose and, if drawn together, United will need to ensure they do not present the World Cup winner with too many opportunities in front of goal if they are to make it through.

Anderlect

Belgium’s third best side in 2014/15 would certainly be underdogs against a side as well equipped as United, but are capable of mounting a surprise.

Steven Defour would need to be carefully watched, whilst they can also count upon the services of Defour’s Belgium international teammate Anthony vanden Borre in their line up.

Monaco

The French side would undoubtedly be one of the toughest tests for United having reached the quarter finals of this season’s competition, knocking out Arsenal in the process.

They boast a blend of young talent, such as Geoffrey Kondogbia, as well as a wealth of experience including United old boy Dimitar Berbatov, and will certainly be no pushover.

Last season’s United loanee, Radamel Falcao, is also on Monaco’s books, but he is reportedly keen to stay in the Premier League and is likely to be either sold or loaned out again before the summer is out.

Young Boys

The Swiss runners-up would be a favourable draw for United, on paper being one of the weaker teams van Gaal’s men could face.

Everton proved they can be beaten by dispatching them twice in this season’s Europa League, convincingly disposing of them 4-1 away and 3-1 at Goodison Park.

Sparta Prague

The Czech side finished second in their league and could prove to be difficult opponents with plenty of European experience.

They also boast a number of Czech internationals including forwards David Lafata and Vaclav Kadlec alongside midfielder Lukas Vacha and defender Pavel Kaderabek.

Fenerbahce

The Turkish runners up will be no pushovers should United face them.

A trip to Turkey is never easy, with long flights and a partisan crowd creating a hostile atmosphere.

Fenerbahce are no stranger to European football, or to Champions League games against United, being the first team to beat United in Europe’s premier competition at Old Trafford with a surprise win in 1996.

Rapid Vienna

Austria’s second placed side could look to build their game around Slovenian international forward Robert Beric, who scored 27 times in 39 appearances last season, whilst at the back the presence of the likes of Thomas Schrammel will be vital.

Van Gaal would expect his troops to beat Rapid, and the trip to the Austrian capital would not be too taxing on the players.

Panathinaikos

Greece is never an easy place to play, with a long journey and hot conditions making it a potentially uncomfortable tie for whoever is drawn against them.

The Greek runners up will be tough to crack at home where the atmosphere will be almost as hot as the weather.

Panathinaikos can call upon the services of Croatians Mladen Petric and Danijel Pranjic to give them creativity in attack.

Luke Steele, who spent a number of seasons at Old Trafford is currently also part of the Panithinaikos squad.
United will learn their fate on August 7 when the draw for the qualifying round is made.

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