Juan Mata has made it clear that Manchester United will have to be at their best to beat Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final on Thursday night.
Jose Mourinho’s men claimed knockout wins over Saint Etienne, FC Rostov and Anderlecht to reach the semi-final stage along with Celta, Lyon and Ajax.
They will travel to Spain somewhat inundated by a series of big injuries, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all unavailable.
And Mata, who made a return from injury over the weekend to feature on the bench for Man United, has made it clear that there are no easy games in Spain.
“First of all we have to visit Celta in the Europa League,” he said.
“I can say, without exaggerating, that they are one of the teams that play better football in Spain, and not only this season. Being back home will be special, but very difficult at the same time. We must perform at our best in order to beat them.”
Celta may have lost 3-0 to Atletico Bilbao – a result that takes them down to 11th spot in La Liga – over the weekend, but at least manager Eduardo Berizzo had an opportunity to rest five or six big players ahead of the clash with Man United during the week.
Mourinho’s men, on the other hand, were desperately fighting against the overwhelming levels of fatigue and injury pervading within the squad against Swansea on Sunday, almost visibly diminishing in power as the game went on. They will, no doubt, have to dig deep and hope that the craft and innovation of Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba – all set to return to the starting XI in Galicia – can take them over the line.