Manchester United kick off their campaign in the UEFA Champions League when they host FC Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday in a Group A match
The latest edition of the UEFA Champions League is set to kick off on Tuesday, with Match Day 1 of the group stage. In Group A, firm favourites Manchester United begin their campaign in Europe at home, when they play hosts to Swiss champions FC Basel at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils are making a return to the premier European club competition after a season-long gap, and qualified for this year’s tournament after triumphing in the UEFA Europa League. Jose Mourinho’s men come into this match with positive form, although their last match ended in a 2-2 stalemate at Stoke City.
Basel on the other hand, have become a sort of regulars in the Champions League in recent years, having been crowned the Swiss champions in each of the last eight seasons. Raphael Wicky’s men, though, come into the match on the back of some indifferent form, with only three wins in seven in the Super League, and having lost their previous game.
The previous meeting between the two sides saw Basel get the better of Manchester United, winning 2-1 in a Champions League group stage match back in 2011. Ahead of their latest meeting on Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jose Mourinho does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with ahead of his side’s return to the Champions League, with Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (both knee) the only long-term absentees.
However, the Manchester United boss will be without the services of his two first-choice centre-backs, with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones unavailable for selection. The duo are serving their respective suspensions and will, thus, be absent from Mourinho’s matchday squad for the first time this season.
They will be replaced by Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, who are set to make their first starts of the season on Tuesday, after the Portuguese manager confirmed the same following the 2-2 draw at Stoke City on Saturday.
The duo will likely have Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind, who was omitted from the starting eleven on Saturday, as their partners in the back-four, with David De Gea expected to take up his place between the sticks.
The rest of the side is expected to remain the same, with Ander Herrera likely to get another start to add solidity at the heart of midfield alongside Nemanja Matic. Juan Mata could, thus, start another game on the bench, as should Anthony Martial.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford
Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Raphael Wicky has no personnel availability issues on his hands whatsoever, with no injury concerns or suspensions. The Basel boss, thus, takes a full-strength squad to Old Trafford for their European curtain raiser.
With all his first-team players fit and available, Wicky is expected to start with his first-choice starting eleven on Tuesday. Taulant Xhaka and Ricky van Wolfswinkel are the pivotal figures in his squad, with the Albanian midfielder in charge of dictating play from the centre of the park, while the former Norwich striker is the form player for Basel.
Captain Marek Suchy and his partner at the heart of the Basel defence, Manuel Akanji are likely to be the central defensive pairing who will have the unenviable task of keeping the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford quiet.
Meanwhile, Wicky is expected to set his side up defend deep to thwart the Manchester United attack at bay, while attacking themselves on the counter in order to take a shock result away from Old Trafford.
Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Vaclik; Lang, Suchy, Akanji, Riveros; Steffen, Xhaka, Die, Zuffi, Bua; van Wolfswinkel
- Manchester United are making an appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage. The Red Devils have failed to make the next round on only four occasions.
- FC Basel, on the other hand, are making their eighth appearances in the UEFA Champions League group stage, and their fourth in the last five years.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 18 European home games (W14 D4). Their last loss at home came against Real Madrid in a Champions League Round of 16 tie in the 2012-13 season.
- FC Basel are without a victory in their last eight matches in Europe, home and away (D3 L5). The Swiss side last won a match in Europe in February 2016 – a 2-1 victory over AS Saint-Etienne.
- Manchester United and FC Basel have met four times previously, with each side winning one game. The other two ties ended in a draw.
Player To Watch
The only Manchester United signing who is yet to get a game this season, thus far. Victor Lindelof is yet to make a matchday squad for Jose Mourinho this season, but that is all set to change on Tuesday night, as he is set to make his Champions League debut for the Red Devils.
The last time Lindelof donned the red shirt of Manchester United was back in the UEFA Super League tie against Real Madrid, when he was rather underwhelming. Against Basel though, the Swede can change all that when he comes up against the Swiss champions.
Alongside Chris Smalling, Lindelof will have the task of tackling the in-form Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and a solid outing can help him go a long way. The Swedish centre-back is unlikely to wrest a starting spot from Bailly or Jones in the Premier League any time soon, but a positive showing can give Mourinho some food for thought.
Manchester United 2-0 FC Basel
Champions League football returns to Old Trafford after a gap of well over a year on Tuesday when FC Basel visit Manchester United for their Champions League campaign kick-off. While on paper, it looks like a match that the home side should be able to win, Basel’s history against English clubs means it might be anything but.
However, recent form tips the scales in favour of Manchester United, unbeaten this season so far, while the RotBlau are winless in three including a home loss on Saturday. With the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in top form, the hosts could, in fact, make short work of Basel.
The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts Jose Mourinho’s men to kick start their Champions League campaign with a bang – a 2-0 win.