Manchester United travel to Lisbon as they take on SL Benfica in their UEFA Champions League Group Stage Match.
United come into this match on the back of a goalless draw against Liverpool in the league on Saturday, and were lucky enough to earn a point in a testing fixture. Liverpool were clearly the dominant side and United received flak for not coming into the match with a winning mentality. The draw meant that United slipped down to second in the league table, trailing leaders Manchester City by two points.
In Champions League, United have had an impeccable start. They defeated FC Basel 3-0 and CSKA Moscow 4-1 in their first two group matches, and are top of their group with a maximum six points from two matches.
SL Benfica, on the other hand, have had a decent start to their domestic campaign as they currently sit third in the league table. They’ve lost only once in the opening eight fixtures, with the defeat coming against Boavista F.C. last month. They’ve, however, got their title charge back on track with a win and a draw since then, and currently trail leaders Porto F.C. by 5 points. Their star man this season has been 33 year old veteran Brazilian striker Jonas who’s already scored 10 goals in all competitions this season.
In the Champions League, however, the Portuguese side have had a nightmarish start. They’ve lost both group games, losing 2-1 at home to CSKA Moscow and were then embarrassed 5-0 by FC Basel in Switzerland. Their back-to-back losses have already put their chances of progressing to the Round of 16 in jeopardy.
In team news, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Eric Bailly, who sustained an injury while on international duty, will be out of contention. Marcos Rojo, who has been out for more than six months now, has travelled with the squad to Portugal for training sessions and Mourinho feels that he’ll fully recover from his injury and start high-intensity training in two weeks’ time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are still on the side-lines for an indefinite period, while Marouane Fellaini needs another week to get over his knee injury. It’s still unclear whether Michael Carrick is ready for the match or not, while Luke Shaw’s below par performance in the under 23’s’ 4-2 defeat to West Ham did him no favours in making a comeback to the line-up. Mourinho is likely to rest a couple of players, and it won’t be a surprise if players like De Gea, Valencia, Young and Mkhitaryan aren’t included in the starting eleven. Benfica, on the other hand, have no major injury concerns, and only right back Andrea Almeida will miss out through suspension, after being sent off in their last UCL game against FC Basel.
This’ll be a fairly interesting game, and could decide the fate of both teams. United could almost confirm their progression to the next round with a thumping win here, which could give Mourinho a chance to play youngsters in the remaining group games, while the hosts could face an uphill battle if they fail to win tonight. My money’s obviously on United, but they can’t make the mistake of underestimating their opponents, as they know that the hosts need to pretty much win all of their remaining games and would definitely be tricky opponents to face.