Old Trafford, Manchester
April 01, 2014; 19:45 BST
Manchester United host Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at Old Trafford tomorrow. The last time both these sides faced each other was in the quarter-final stage of this competition back in 2009-2010 season. Manchester United won the return leg 3-2 at home with Nani scoring a brace and Rafael being sent off after receiving two yellow cards, but a late strike from Arjen Robben ensured Bayern’s progress into the next round through away goals. But a lot has changed for these two sides since then and both these teams arrive into this first leg after enduring a largely contrasting season so far.
Both clubs have welcomed new managers at the helm at the start of this season, but while David Moyes has struggled to defend his side’s Premier League title, Bayern Munich have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title under Pep Guardiola. If prediction is based on form and quality, there will be just one winner in this tie, but we have certainly seen bigger upsets in this tournament in the past and an United win will be nothing short of an upset.
Winning the Champions League remains the England club’s only hope of securing a place in this competition for next season, however unlikely it may seem. But the Red Devils showed enough spirit and qualities in the second leg of their tie against Olympiakos in the last round to keep their hopes alive. Bayern on the other hand have been turned into a demolishing machine by Pep Guardiola this season and none of the sides in Europe could perhaps match with their squad strength and depth currently. A good result for United in the first leg will help in keeping this tie alive till the second leg, at least that is what the neutrals will be hoping for.
Team news and tactics
David Moyes will have to contain with some selection headaches ahead of this big tie, especially in his defence. Patrice Evra is suspended, while Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are still struggling with their fitness. The duo will undergo late fitness test ahead of this game to confirm their availability for selection.
There are also some doubts about the fitness of Rafael, who was substituted at half time during United’s match against Aston Villa with a thigh injury. The extent of his injury is yet to be known and he is a doubtful to start against Bayern Munich. The full back also missed the training before the game. But the good news for United is that Antonio Valencia did take part in the training and could make his first start since the 3-0 win over Olympiakos earlier this month. Robin van Persie remains the only other long term injury concern for Manchester United at the moment.
David Moyes is likely to make five changes to the side that won against Aston Villa at the weekend. Chris Smalling, who seems likely to pass his late fitness test, could feature as a right back in this game in place of the injured Rafael. The other option for Moyes is to either play Jones or Valencia in that role.
In the midfield Michael Carrick will return to the starting line-up after starting on the bench against Villa and he is likely to be partnered with Ryan Giggs, who put up a fantastic display against Olympiakos in the last round. Valencia will replace Young on the right wing, while Januzaj replaces Juan Mata, who is ineligible to participate in this tournament for United this season. This means Shinji Kagawa will start behind Wayne Rooney in a more central role. Moyes could also drop the former Borussia Dortmund midfield in favour of Marouane Fellaini and opt to play more bodies in the midfield against Bayern. But the former Everton manager will know that his team needs to have a positive result at home in order to have any chance of going past Bayern over two legs.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Smalling, Vidic, Jones, Buttner; Carrick, Giggs; Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj; Rooney
The big injury news for Pep Guardiola ahead of this tie is the absence of Thiago Alcantara, who partially tore a ligament in his knee during their match against Hoffenheim and could be out of action for six to eight weeks. He joins long term injury concern Holger Badstuber on the side lines ahead of this crucial clash and he could turn out to be a big miss for the German side. The other big miss for Bayern Munich is that of Dante, who is suspended for this game.
Pep Guardiola had the luxury of resting a lot of his key players in the match against Hoffenheim having already secured the Bundesliga title. He is expected to make seven changes to the starting line-up he used at the weekend. Neuer will return to goal in place of Tom Starke, while Boateng and Alaba also returns to the back-four. Javi Martinez will replace the suspended Dante at the center of the defence and this center back pairing could possibly be their only weakness on paper in this game.
Philip Lahm, who came on as a substitute to replace the injured Alcantara in the last game, will start in the midfield ahead of the defence. Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer, will start in midfield as Gotze and Shaqiri drops back to the bench. Claudio Pizarro, who scored a brace against Hoffenheim, will also make way for Mario Mandzukic in attack.
Bayern Munich will look to exploit Manchester United’s problems in the full back area. Robben and Ribery will rub their hands at the prospect of facing Alexander Buttner and Chris Smalling (or Rafael if he is fit) respectively. The German side will dominate possession as expected, but will also be way about United’s biggest threat on the field – Wayne Rooney. The center back pairing Boateng and Martinez can he shaky at times, hence the role of Philip Lahm in the side is every so important in this game.
Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Neuer (GK); Rafinha, Boateng, Martinez,Alaba; Lahm; Robben, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Ribery; Mandzukic
Players to watch-out for: Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich); Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Prediction: Manchester United 1-3 Bayern Munich