This preview sees the first round of games from the Europa League group stage with England's only representatives playing. Manchester United travel to Feyenoord who are currently top of the Eredivisie and Southampton host Sparta Praha in their maiden appearance in the tournament.

Feyenoord vs Manchester United – Thursday 15th September 2016 – 18:00 - BT Sport

Can Manchester United and Mourinho kick off their campaign with a win?
Can Manchester United and Mourinho kick off their campaign with a win?

Feyenoord welcome Manchester United to Rotterdam, in the first round of matches from this season's Europa League group stage games.

The Dutch side come into this game on the back of an emphatic 3-1 win against Den Haag on Sunday.

Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be delighted with that result, with a home win and five successive wins.

Great Season So Far

Feyenoord have started the season in excellent fashion, they sit top of the Eredivisie with maximum points from their five games.

Their 3-1 win against Den Haag saw Dirk Kuyt, Jorgensen and El Ahmadi score, with Marengo scoring a consolation goal for the visitors.

They have already beaten Excelsior, H Almelo, Twente and Gronigen, with two of those matches away.

Feyenoord have been excellent in defence and attack, their goal difference of +13 suggests that they have been brilliant in all facets of the game.

United A Huge Challenge

They face a huge challenge to remain top of the Eredivisie, with PSV and Ajax the dominant forces over the last four years.

Manchester United will be their toughest opponents of the season, with United winning three of their four fixtures.

This is a tough group that contains Feyenoord, Manchester United, Fenerbahce and FC Zarya Lugansk.

If they can produce a result against Manchester United that will give Feyenoord great confidence heading into the rest of the group stages.

United's record against Dutch sides will have encouraged Feyenoord, over two legs against PSV last season United did not register a win.

Feyenoord are 16/5 with Nicolai Jorgensen the favourite to open the scoring at 13/2

Feyenoord
Can United bounce back from Saturday's defeat against Manchester City?

 

Manchester United come into this match on the back of a home defeat to Manchester City, with the Blues registering a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

Under Louis Van Gaal last season United made it to the last 16 of the competition, only to be beaten over two legs by Liverpool.

This season United look a much better side and despite the defeat against City, they will be competing on all fronts this season.

Jose Mourinho will look to use these matches as a chance to test the rest of his squad, with Marcus Rashford confirmed to start.

The likes of Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling will be desperate to get some game time, to impress the new manager Mourinho.

Domestic Dominance The Target

The main challenge for Manchester United will be to win the title, a run in the Europa League is the motivation for the fringe players at the club.

United have never won the Europa League, it is something that they will be keen to add to their trophy collection.

Manchester United have made great strides under Mourinho, the derby defeat will be something that motivates the players to do better.

Given their efforts in Holland last season, the majority of United players will be looking to put in a far greater performance in Rotterdam this time around.

United Favourites

Manchester United come into this tie as heavy favourites, with their pedigree and form this season informing those odds.

They will be looking to get back to winning ways, they will also be looking to make a great start to their European adventure.

This is the first meeting between the two sides and both will be looking to make their mark on the group.

United are 11/2 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 7/2 to score first.

Southampton vs Sparta Praha – Thursday 15th September 2016 – 20:05 - BT Sport

Can manager Claude Puel mark his first game  in charge of the Saints in the Europa League with a win?
Can manager Claude Puel mark his first game in charge of the Saints in the Europa League with a win?

Southampton welcome Sparta Praha to St.Mary's, in the first round of matches from this season's Europa League group stage games.

This is Southampton's maiden appearance in European competition, with the South Coast club finishing in 7th place last season.

New manager Claude Puel has really struggled to make an impact in his opening four matches in the Premier League.

Southampton have yet to get off the mark and come into this match on the back of a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal.

Poor Season So Far

Southampton have had an unlucky start to the season, with the penalty decision against Arsenal typifying their season.

They took the lead against the Gunners with a Petr Cech own goal in the 18th minute.

Arsenal equalised through Laurent Koscielny's acrobatic overhead kick, a finish you would not associate with a central defender.

Jose Fonte was then penalised in the 94th minute for a foul on Olivier Giroud, which appeared very harsh.

Santi Cazorla stepped up to make it 2-1 and consign Southampton to their second defeat of the season.

Europe A Welcome Relief?

They face a huge challenge to remain competitive in the Premier League and progress in the Europa League.

Southampton may well find that this temporary relief from the Premier League may help their domestic form though.

European matches at St.Mary's are what the club has worked so hard for, the players will be motivated to ensure they don't fail after last season's exploits.

If they can produce a result against Sparta Praha that will give Feyenoord great confidence heading into the rest of the group stages.

Despite having Inter Milan in their group, Southampton will fancy their chances of qualifying for the round of 32 as runners up.

Southampton are 4/7 with Shane Long at 7/2 to score first.

Southampton
Will the Europa League provide Southampton with a winning reprieve?

 

Sparta Praha come into this match on the back of a 2-2 draw against Mladá Boleslav, in the Czech First League.

Unlike Southampton they appear to be in great domestic form, they find themselves in second position in their respective league.

They are unbeaten as it stands, with four wins and two draws from their opening six games.

Sparta do come into this tournament having been eliminated from the Champions League.

Steaua Bucharesti beating them over two legs, with a 1-1 draw in the first leg and a 2-0 defeat away in the second leg.

They have also had to qualify for the Europa League group stages, beating SønderjyskE 3-2 on aggregate.

This Is Sparta

There will have been a siege mentality at Sparta, given that they have had to qualify for this tournament the hard way.

Sparta reached the Quarter-Finals of the competition last season, having been knocked out by Spaniards Villarreal.

They lost both legs of that Quarter-Final, with 2-1 and 4-2 defeats consigning them to a 6-3 defeat overall.

Praha will be motivated to go further in this season's competition and will be dangerous opponents.

Southampton Favourites

Southampton come into this tie as heavy favourites, with home advantage key in informing those odds.

Given how Sparta have started the season they will fancy getting a result here, using their European experience as well.

This is the first meeting between the two sides and both will be looking to make their mark on the group.

It is a tough group that contains Southampton, Sparta Praha, Inter Milan and Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

Sparta Praha are 5/1 with David Lafata at 9/1 to open the scoring.

 

Betting Tips

Tip 1: Rashford to score first @ 9/2 and United to win 2-1 @ 15/2

Tip 2: Long to score first @ 7/2 and a 1-1 draw @ 6/1

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