The premier European competition returns to Old Trafford after nearly two years as Manchester United host FC Basel in the first match of their Champions League Group Stage.
United come into this match on the back of a frustrating 2-2 away draw at Stoke, where Lukaku and Rashford’s goals were cancelled out by a Choupo-Moting brace. Despite the draw, United remain on top of the table, albeit only on goal difference. On the other hand, FC Basel come into the match after a disappointing 2-1 victory at the hands of FC Lausanne-Sport. The match saw both teams getting a man sent off, and former Norwich City flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s goal from the spot wasn’t enough against a side that bagged all three points courtesy of goals from Benjamin Kololli and Nicolas Getaz. The loss means that Basel drop to third in the league, trailing leaders BSC Young Boys by three points after seven match days.
The hosts do not have any new injury concerns apart from a minor injury to Fellaini, who, as per boss Mourinho, is running out of time to be fit for the clash against the Swiss champions. Mourinho has again highlighted the Belgian’s importance to him, stressing that Fellaini is “more important to me than you can imagine”. The midfielder hasn’t enjoyed a great relationship with the fans, but Mourinho has time and again stayed loyal to the enigmatic player, often deploying him as his trump card to get out of sticky situations.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo are still recovering from their injuries, while Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, though available, haven’t yet made their return to full fitness. Mourinho has confirmed that he’ll play the centre-back duo of Lindelof and Smalling in the absence of the suspended Bailly and Jones, but feels that all four are on the same level and that the suspended duo have a reason to be fearful of the playing pair. It’ll be interesting to see if Mourinho would drop Herrera and use a 4-2-1-3 formation, which has proved to be the best for United in the first few games of the season. Sergio Romero was United’s preferred goalkeeper in Europa League last season, and would be hopeful of his first start this season here. The rest of the team could be almost identical to the team that faced Stoke, and the only other change could be Martial’s inclusion in place of Rashford.
FC Basel, coached by Raphael Wicky, will no doubt be raring to bring their campaign back on track, having started the season in the worst possible manner – losing to Young Boys on opening day, failing to beat Lugano and Sion and most recently, losing to Lausanne-Sport on Saturday. They’ve won the Swiss league for the last eight seasons running and so it looks to be only a matter of time before they recover their form. Could this be the game that acts as their season catalyst?
Ricky van Wolfswinkel could be the target man for the visitors, while the experienced Matias Delgado and youngster Kevin Bua will be given the job of creating chances for their side.
United will be wary of the Swiss team, having had nightmarish memories of the giant-slayers. They stunned the Red Devils 1-0 last time out, knocking them out of the group stages, blotting Sir Alex’s last season at the helm of the club at Old Trafford. United will be out to avenge that defeat, and considering the talent and superstars Mourinho has at his disposal, it’s almost impossible to predict United losing any points tonight. I’ll go with a 2-0 home victory.