Semi Impossible Task For Reds?

Nottingham Forest signed three deadline day players yesterday with Jonjo Shelvey announced on a two and a half year deal from Newcastle United with Brazilian defender Felipe arriving for a rumoured couple of million quid from Atletico Madrid and goalkeeper Keylor Navas joining on loan from Paris St Germain. None however will play tonight against United.

Despite a valiant effort last week, Forest were outclassed by a new look, newly confident Manchester United team. There were promising moments for the Reds and some would argue that if Sam Surridge hadn’t strayed millimetres offside, the pattern of the game may have different. But Steve Cooper’s men find themselves 3-0 down on aggregate, going to Old Trafford where Erik Ten Hag’s troops are unbeaten in thirteen. The task at hand looks impossible for Cooper.

The blow of losing Morgan Gibbs-White in the previous meeting against the Red Devils is one that can’t be understated. He was Forest’s livewire and was effective in keeping Casemiro busy last week, the game fell flat when he was forced off due to an ankle injury. Seven players are on Forest’s confirmed injury list:

  • Cheikhou Kouyate- Hamstring injury- Out until early March.
  • Dean Henderson- Muscle injury- Out until late February.
  • Moussa Niakhate- Hamstring injury- Out until mid-February.
  • Morgan Gibbs-White- Ankle injury- Out until late February.
  • Omar Richards- Leg injury- Out until mid-February.
  • Giulian Biancone- Cruciate Ligament injury- Out until July.
  • Taiwo Awoniyi- Groin injury- Out until early March.

This injury list in huge, Ryan Yates and Jack Colback are also doubts to play a large role at Old Trafford due to illness. On the other hand, Manchester United have a few problems of their own. Christian Eriksen has been ruled out until April with an Ankle injury, whereas Diogo Dalot will also miss the game nursing a hamstring injury. Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are doubts, but Anthony Martial and the returning Jadon Sancho might be in the squad, according to Ten Hag.

Danilo was a bright spark for Forest last week, the Brazilian was brilliant in his individual duels, winning 7/8 of them as well as, winning 2/3 tackles. He looked comfortable carrying the ball from the back and was not shy in receiving a pass back to goal from the two Centre-Backs. Marcus Rashford’s goal was a piece of individual magic, but was also the product of bad defending. Serge Aurier’s positioning in the first 20 minutes at the City Ground was peculiar, with the Ivorian almost playing as a right winger at some points. Steve Cooper was reportedly furious at Aurier, with many supporters behind the touchline hearing the Boss bellowing at the Right-Back to “GET BACK!”. Aurier cannot afford to give Rashford any space with the form that the Englishman is in since the World Cup, ten goals in eleven games.

The first half last week was very competitive. Wout Weghorst’s goal on the stroke of half time was a physical and mental hammer blow. United’s ability to shift the ball quickly in the final third, was the undoing of Worrall and McKenna, however the return of Willy Boly to the starting lineup will hopefully provide some needed agility and mobility to the back line. The absence of Gibbs-White will also promote Gustavo Scarpa to the role lead creator, the Brazilian has proven he is not shy in taking a risk and playing a more expressive pass.

In conclusion, Forest are in for a difficult night, Erik Ten Hag has never been the type of manager to field a weakened team, even if the job appears to be done. This is something that cost him dearly in the long run at Ajax, but United are thin on the ground as it is and Ten Hag will be desperate to reach a final in his first season. An early goal is what Forest need to unsettle Old Trafford and rattle their opponents. My heart says Forest will bow out of the Carabao Cup with their heads held high, rallying to a 1-1 draw but my head says otherwise. I think every Forest fan will tell you that the key to winning this semi-final tie was the home leg, which the reds let the advantage slip through their grasp.

Probable Line-Ups:

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Varane, Malacia, Casemiro, Fred, Antony, Fernandes, Rashford, Weghorst.

Nottingham Forest: Hennessey, Aurier, Worrall, Boly, Toffalo, Freuler, Danilo, Mangala, Scarpa, Johnson, Surridge.

Score prediction: 2-0

*Article provided by James Bird (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Forest yesterday signed Jonjo Shelvey who won’t be available for selection until the weekend.

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