To be not very common to see Sheriff Tiraspol at the head of a group made up of Manchester United and Real Sociedad. But with a thumping victory over Omonia Nicosia, the Moldovan side sits atop the Europa League Group E.
They will need to be equally focused on Thursday (today) as the Manchester Red Devils make a trip to their homeland in a bid to take their first away win in Europe this season.
United have faced the threat of now-injured Nigerian striker Sadiq Umar in their first 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad in their first group stage match, and are ready against Umar’s little-known compatriots Iyayi Atiemwem and Rasheed Ibrahim Akanbi, who are both on target. were ahead of Sheriff, when they saw Super Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho’s Omonia Nicosia 3-0 away from home.
Midfielder Akanbi with a goal and an assist and Atiemwen with another from the spot while Uzoho watched from the bench.
Akanbi was on fire against Omonia, as the disguised attacker scored one – within two minutes – and assisted another in setting up his two direct goals. He had two shots, 35 touches, 13/22 passes, two chances created, 3/4 ground games, one tackle, 100 percent successful dribbles and a yellow card.
The Nigerian is playing in Europe for the first time this season, as Sheriff had a completely different line-up in the Champions League last season. The midfielder is hoping to make the most of his playing time today against one of the big clubs in Europe.
Against Omonia, Akanbi had plenty of support from defender Armel Zohouri as the right-back made two important passes for his team-mates, one of which resulted in a goal for the hosts.
From a defensive standpoint, all laurels go to Cedric Babolo and Gabi Kiki as the centre-back pair are expected to maintain their record of six interceptions per game. Akanbi, Zohouri, Babolo and Kiki are four players to keep an eye on in this game.
Atiemwen is hoping to increase his goal tally after converting from the spot in their first group win. The 26-year-old attacker, who started his career with the youth division of Bendel Insurance in Benin City, can count on his experience at this level to wreak havoc against a visit to Manchester United.
The winger made a cameo appearance in the Champions League against Manchester City in 2019, playing the lead role for Dinamo Zagreb as the English giants came out 2-0 winners.
Manchester United are aware of the threat from the Nigerians, as well as Guinean Momo Yansane, and admitted it on their website ahead of today’s game.
“Guinea international Momo Yansane could be one for United to keep an eye on given his 12-goal total for Stjepan Tomas last season,” United wrote on their website.
“Fellow striker Iyayi Atiemwen is also considered a handful, given his previous pedigree at Dinamo Zagreb. The 26-year-old, who has already netted twice this season, will bid to further build his European score. Finally, compatriot van Atiemwen, Akanbi is arguably the sheriff’s most dangerous attacker, known for his speed and deception down the left wing, with five goals and two assists in 13 games so far this season, the Nigerian moved from Turkey’s Kocaelispor this summer and has certainly made a start in Moldova.”
United’s Premier League game last weekend was canceled due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but they hope to make this trip count. Erik Ten Hag’s men have won two of their three games since the start of this season.
The hosts of Moldova have shown real strength in their back line, not conceding a single goal in their last three games and not more than one goal in each of their last 12 games now.