Big Midweek: Galatasaray v Man Utd, Newcastle, Arsenal’s keeper, Brighton boss

Ian Watson
Kieran Trippier. Kylian Mbappe, Sofyan Amrabat and Roberto De Zerbi.
It's a Big Midweek for Kieran Trippier. Kylian Mbappe, Man Utd and Roberto De Zerbi.

It’s must-win for Manchester United when they go to Galatasaray while Newcastle are in a similarly perilous position ahead of their trip to revenge-seeking PSG…

 

Game to watch – Galatasaray v Manchester United
It’s sh*t or bust for Manchester United when they go to Istanbul to face Galatasaray on Wednesday evening.

The Red Devils could find themselves in an uphill battle with Copenhagen just to drop into the Europa League if they lose in Turkey. They go there bottom of Group A and clear that only a win will do if they are to stand a chance of extending their Champions League campaign into the new year.

Mercifully for Erik ten Hag, they aced their rehearsal for Galatasaray at the weekend. On Sunday, they went into what many expected to be the most hostile atmosphere they have faced so far this season and left with a resounding win, a clean sheet and a Puskas Award contender.

Ten Hag can’t rely on Alejandro Garnacho doing another madness to quieten the Galatasaray supporters, so United will need more of the control they showcased at Goodison Park, especially in the second half.

Kobbie Mainoo, on his Premier League debut, was a major factor in United eventually winning the midfield battle and the teenager may well be trusted to boss Ten Hag’s engine room once more. In the absence of credible alternatives, Mainoo should be given consecutive starts.

Ten Hag will have to change his attack, with Marcus Rashford suspended. Perhaps the England forward won’t be a big miss given his form this season and his absence allows Garnacho to maintain his rhythm after Sunday’s stunner.

It would be typical of United to follow an encouraging performance with something more like the displays that have left them in such a perilous position on matchday five. Ten Hag needs to unlock the consistency that has been missing this season or face Champions League exile and perhaps an exit from Europe altogether.

Manchester United pair in top three: 10 brilliant teenagers who can rescue struggling clubs

 

Team to watch – Newcastle
Newcastle are similarly in the sh*t. The Magpies are bottom of Group F, the last of four teams on consecutive points tallies from four to seven.

On six and hellbent on revenge are PSG, who welcome the Magpies to the Parc des Princes looking to atone for matchday two when somehow they seemed surprised by the fire and fervour created by the Toon Army at St James’ Park. Safely back in their own surroundings, with a possibility of sealing passage into the knockout stages, we will surely see a more authoritative performance from Kylian Mbappe and co.

Luis Enrique said immediately after that 4-1 defeat that he ‘couldn’t wait to play them again in Paris’ and the Ligue 1 leaders, fresh off a big win over Monaco, have promised their own house will be ‘on fire’ on Wednesday, when Newcastle need to shake their travel sickness if they are to retain any hope of escaping the group of death.

If it goes to form, Newcastle are screwed. PSG have won seven of their last eight, scoring 20 goals in their last six home matches. The Magpies have conceded at least twice in four of their last five away games, and they are yet to score a Champions League goal against anyone other than PSG.

Eddie Howe is still contending with injuries but there have been some positive updates on the fitness front. Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes were both back and pivotal in the 4-1 win over Chelsea at the weekend, while Lewis Miley made a very convincing case to be in the XI in France.

There will be goals. The fact PSG have lost six of their last eight against English opposition offers some hope that most will be in the hosts’ net to set up a huge night, bigger than PSG in September, against AC Milan at St James’ Park in a fortnight.

 

Manager to watch – Roberto De Zerbi
It has been a rough few weeks for the Brighton boss, whose relief at their first Premier League win since the end of September was abundantly clear in his celebration at the full-time whistle at Forest on Saturday.

“It was not disrespect for the opponent,” said De Zerbi after his Trent-side dash. “We are suffering a lot. We have lost so many players to injury. We lost two more players in the first half. We suffered a red card… This was one of the toughest moments in my career. Not just in the Premier League but in my career.”

Brighton could lift their manager’s mood even more on Thursday night when they go to Greece. They face AEK Athens, who triumphed at the AmEx on matchday one, with the chance of sealing progression to the knockout stages. Another possible first for De Zerbi’s Seagulls.

De Zerbi’s joy suggested the Italian recognised the importance of restarting after the international break in a positive way. The Forest trip was the start of eight games in 27 days that could have seriously deepened his gloom. So he can be forgiven for refusing to temper his emotions.

When the adrenaline subsided, De Zerbi was left to check on the state of his squad which, by full-time at the weekend, was a dozen down in number. But Lewis Dunk and Mahmoud Dahoud will be available amid domestic suspensions while Kaoru Mitoma and James Milner may return for the flight to Greece.

 

Player to watch – Arsenal’s goalkeeper
We will all be surprised – nay, stunned – if David Raya isn’t back in Arsenal’s net for Tuesday’s clash with Lens. But the fact there is any scrutiny on the goalmouth is a consequence of Mikel Arteta’s odd approach to selecting his keeper and justifying his choice.

Arteta had to pick Aaron Ramsdale at Brentford on Saturday and the England international played like a goalkeeper who knew he lacked the faith of his manager. Ramsdale shook off an extremely awkward first half to go back to basics in the second and secure a clean sheet.

Perhaps a return to the bench will come as a relief to Ramsdale who certainly did not look like he was enjoying being back in the goal under a brighter spotlight than ever. It will probably be Raya’s turn to squint in the glare against opposition he has already boobed against this season.

Still, despite the defeat in Lens, Arsenal can seal their place in the last 16 with victory at the Emirates. Given his side’s struggles to reach and retain top form, Arteta will likely give little thought to who gets the gloves, but whoever the recipient is needs a serene, cock-up-free Tuesday night.

EFL game to watch – Harrogate Town v Wrexham
There is a full midweek programme in the EFL, and normally we would focus on a Championship fixture here. But in the absence of a single second-tier clash to get the balls tingling, please pardon some self indulgence because, here in North Yorkshire, it certainly is a Big Midweek.

So big, in fact, a record crowd is expected when Wrexham arrive on Tuesday night to sprinkle some Hollywood glitter over Wetherby Road. Already, the local grapevine is flooded with bullsh*t around Ryan Reynolds being choppered in to the luxury hotel down the road from Town’s tiny home outside which the ‘sold-out’ signs went up last week.

On the pitch, Simon Weaver, the 92’s longest-serving manager, faces a daunting task. Town have been better on the road this season whereas Wrexham don’t seem to mind where they play. Phil Parkinson’s second-placed side have lost only one in their last 10, while winning four of their last five, most recently a 6-0 win over Morecambe.

Not long ago, Town and Wrexham were facing off in the National League and though the Sulphurites beat their visitors to the EFL by three years, the two clubs took very different routes and remain on different paths, highlighted by the fact this isn’t the first Town landmark Wrexham have been directly involved in this season. At the end of the summer window, Wrexham agreed a record fee to take Luke Armstrong to north Wales. Then they screwed up the paperwork and left little Town short of almost half a million quid and their leading marksman. Armstrong hasn’t recovered from the disappointment of seeing his big move fall through, at least until January, until when the striker is kicking his heels.