Match Preview: Manchester United vs SL Benfica

Manchester United welcome SL Benfica at Old Trafford as the Portuguese side travel to England just two weeks after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s men. United just need to better CSKA Moscow’s result at Basel in order to qualify for the knockout round with two games remaining.

Manchester United come into this match on the back of a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, when a late goal by substitute Anthony Martial was enough for Mourinho’s side to sink the high-riding visitors. The win was their second in a row, after a 2-0 win over Swansea last Tuesday in the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup. That comes after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Huddersfield Town in the Premier League last weekend. United are now second in the league, trailing neighbours Manchester City by five points, and are currently top of their Champions League group as well.

SL Benfica, on the other hand, have had a nightmarish European campaign so far. They’ve lost all three UCL games they’ve played this season, and as per their display in the home defeat to United, they won’t be optimistic coming into this match. They have, however, had a good start to their domestic campaign, and after winning both games since losing to United, they currently sit third in the Primeira Liga. They’ve lost only once in 10 league games this season, which is a sort of purple patch for Rui Vitoria’s men.

In terms of injuries, Mourinho has recently stated that he has the same players who were available at the weekend with him, which means that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini will still remain on the sidelines. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, however, returned to the side on the weekend and their return will be a fillip to Mourinho’s side. Jose Mourinho will want to win here tonight to confirm their progression, and so it’ll be unlikely to see players like Luke Shaw or Axel Tuanzebe starting, and a number of first-team players are expected to start the game.

The visitors will have a depleted defence, with Andrea Almeida and Luisao both unavailable through suspension and Jardel and Douglas out injured. In-form star striker Jonas will be spearheading the visitors’ attack, and will be in a fiery mood having scored three goals in the last two games since losing to United.

As per many reports, Jose Mourinho has urged his squad to put the qualification worries to bed with a statement win here, which would then allow them to focus on reducing Manchester City’s lead in the Premier League. That could mean that players like Shaw or Tuanzebe could start on the bench, at the very best, but winning here would be good news for the fringe players as they’ll get a chance to shine in the two remaining matches in Europe as Mourinho would be able to heavily rotate his side in those meaningless games. I see United having no problems in doing so, and with no disrespect to SL Benfica, I’m predicting a big win at Old Trafford tonight. Expect to see goals galore from the Red Devils.