Manchester United will look to keep their momentum going in Group A of the UEFA Champions League as they travel to Portugal to face SL Benfica.
SL Benfica have had troubles off the gate in Group A of the UEFA Champions League. Expected to be the toughest competition for Manchester United in the group, the Portuguese giants have lost both their opening games and find themselves languishing at the bottom of the table.
Manchester United on the other hand, seems to have navigated the troubled waters in Russia while also securing a comfortable win over FC Basel to sit nicely atop the table. A win against Benfica will see them pocket the maximum points from their first 3 games and will set the Red Devils up nicely to progress into the knockout phase.
We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Jonas, Julio Cesar and Eliseu are all expected to miss the crucial home match against Manchester United. Rui Vitoria’s job has been made harder with Andre Almeida suspended, having received a red card in the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Basel.
Pedro Pereira is likely to make his first appearance of the season in Almeida’s absence, with Douglas also an alternate option for Vitoria. The manager will have to be wary at the back despite being in need of a win on Wednesday, given Manchester United’s attacking prowess.
Benfica are likely to resort to clearing the balls to their flanks and would hope the likes of Andrija Zivkovic and Franco Cervi can prove to be be able outlets and feed the balls to attacking duo of Seferovic and Jimenez.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Varela; Pereira, Luisao, Lopez, Grimaldo; Zivkovic, Pizzi, Fejsa, Cervi; Jimenez, Seferovic
Jose Mourinho has travelled with Luke Shaw in the squad for the match and the fans would be eager to see the Englishman being afforded a chance to impress. Elsewhere in defence, the trend of fielding Victor Lindelof in the Champions League games is expected to continue as the Swede slowly finds his feet at his new club.
Eric Bailly is still a major doubt for the game after a minor groin injury saw him miss the 0-0 draw against Liverpool. Chris Smalling should be Lindelof’s partner at the back, with Phil Jones likely to be given a rest and Marcos Rojo unlikely to start despite travelling with the squad.
Marcus Rashford was only a substitute in the Liverpool game and is likely to be handed a start against SL Benfica. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku both struggled against the Reds and it will be interesting to see if they are retained in the lineup for Wednesday.
Mourinho should return to his normal tactics after a dogged 0-0 draw against Liverpool. The Portuguese will hope to answer prove his critics wrong with some eye-pleasing football against Benfica.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Matic, Herrera; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Lukaku
1. Manchester United have not failed to score against Benfica in each of the last six Champions League matches against the Portuguese giants.
2. Manchester United are one of the only eight teams to remain undefeated at this point of time in the domestic league thus far.
3. There have been atleast 3 goals in 5 of Benfica’s last 6 Champions League matches.
4. Manchester United have had troubles keeping Benfica out as well, with only 1 clean sheet recorded against the Portuguese giants in the last 6 Champions League meetings.
5. Romelu Lukaku has 3 goals already in 2 Champions League appearances and will be looking to build upon his record with a good outing against Benfica.
Player To Watch
Much has been made of the Serbian youngster’s talent. And with Benfica in heaps of trouble, this may just be the time for Zivkovic to step up and lead his side to a brilliant result, or atleast a satisfying overall display, against Manchester United. The Red Devils are among a host of clubs linked to the 21-year-old and Wednesday might just serve as a reminder of why.
SL Benfica 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United are just ‘too good’ to lose to SL Benfica at the present moment. While the Portuguese giants will be a force to be reckoned with at home, it is tough to see the Red Devils leave Portugal without a point on Wednesday.
Benfica is expected to get themselves on the scoresheet and make the game an even contest for majority of the match. However, the quality that United possess is likely to see them through. A match where both teams should get on the scoresheet – we are going with a narrow 2-1 win for the Red Devils.
A draw will not surprise us though.