Manchester United v Saint-Etienne preview: Phil Jones still sidelined for hosts
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 16/02/17 8:08pm
Phil Jones will miss out once again when Manchester United host St Etienne in their Europa League last-32, first leg on Thursday.
The defender has been absent since suffering a foot injury against Hull in the Premier League on February 1.
Jose Mourinho has confirmed Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind - the back four that started against Watford - will keep their places.
The United boss may look to rotate further up the pitch with a busy fixture list ahead of their EFL Cup final against Southampton on February 26, live on Sky Sports.
United face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday before travelling to France for the return leg against St Etienne.
The French side, who currently sit fifth in Ligue 1, went unbeaten as they qualified top of Europa League Group C.
The first-leg tie will see United midfielder Paul Pogba face his older brother Florentin, who has described his younger sibling as "irritable when it comes to losing".
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick will miss the game as a precaution due to minor muscular issues, while a foot injury ensures Jones is sidelined.
Mourinho has also revealed Luke Shaw will not start, with Valencia, Bailly, Smalling and Blind making up United's defence.
Marcos Rojo is available having been substituted at half-time of United's 3-0 win over Leicester.
The only previous time these sides have met in European competition was in the 1977-78 Cup Winners' Cup first round - Man Utd won 2-0 in the home leg after a 1-1 draw in France.
However, they've never previously met at Old Trafford, with the English leg of the tie being played in Plymouth due to crowd trouble during the first leg.
The Red Devils have never lost at home to French opposition in European competition, winning nine and drawing four of their 13 meetings. They've conceded just six goals in these games.
This is St Etienne's first game against English opponents since they faced Ipswich in the 1981 UEFA Cup quarter-final. They've lost all three of their away games on English soil (vs Liverpool, Man Utd and Ipswich).
United are unbeaten in their last 14 European home games (W11 D3), since a 1-2 defeat against Real Madrid in March 2013.
The French side are unbeaten in their last 10 games in all European competition (W5 D5). They last had a longer run between 2005 and 2009 (12 games).
Mourinho has won eight of his 10 home games as manager in the UEFA Cup/Europa League (D1 L1). Indeed, the last time he was in the competition, he won it (2002-03 with Porto).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored more goals against St Etienne than he has against any other side in his career (14).
St Etienne conceded the first goal in four of their six group stage games, but didn't lose once (W2 D2). They kept clean sheets in the other two games (W1 D1).
Only Schalke 04 (3) conceded fewer goals in the group stages than Manchester United.
This is an awkward one for United because Mourinho is chasing the EFL Cup on February 26 and will also be keen to do well in the FA Cup.
He will make a good few changes but, while he's got a lot of numbers in the squad, there are not that many that he really trusts.
I think Ibrahimovic will get a rest and he'll bring in Marcus Rashford to join Juan Mata, who has been so important recently, and give Anthony Martial another chance to impress.
St Etienne have always had quite a strong physical side and United's weakness this season has been their struggle to break sides down at Old Trafford.
I think this could be another one of those frustrating nights where they always look in control but only come away with a narrow advantage.
Mourinho's side head into the knockout stages as the 4/1 favourites to win the competition, with their hosts rated 66/1 outsiders.
Paul Pogba is enhanced from 11/4 to 4/1 to score in a United win in Sky Bet's Price Boosts, while his brother is a 40/1 shot in the first goalscorer betting.