Manchester United seem to have left behind the inconsistencies they showed right after the international break. And have won their past two matches against Swansea City (Carabao Cup) and Tottenham (Premier League). However, The Red Devils must perform in Europe as well, and they will face a tough encounter against Benfica this Tuesday at 19:45 BST. A win would clinch a Round-of-16 ticket for The Red Devils.
Jose Mourinho will have several absentees ahead of this match. Unfortunately, that has been a trend during the past few weeks. The fitness of several players has not improved, and Mourinho will again rotate the side to keep most players fit and ready. First of all, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo remain sidelined due to knee injuries. However, based on past projections it is safe to say Rojo SHOULD be back sooner than later. An optimistic projection would be to see him playing in appoximately two weeks, though, so he will certainly add depth on the back line since he play at both centre-back and left-back.
Paul Pogba (hamstring), Michael Carrick (undisclosed) and Marouane Fellaini (knee) won’t be available either, making the team quite shorthanded in the middle of the pitch. Considering Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic have endured a heavy workload of late, it would not be surprising to see Daley Blind seeing time at central midfielder in order to give the Serbian or the Spaniard some much-needed rest.
On the other hand, Benfica won’t have one of their most experienced players after Luisao received a one-match ban following his red card against Manchester United last time out. Douglas Pereira is not out yet, but the former FC Barcelona left-back will be a game-time decision due to an ankle problem.
Manchester United’s form after the international break has been quite a roller-coaster. Fortunately, however, those problems have not affected their UEFA Champions League campaign. The Red Devils have won their three matches in the Group Stage so far, and a win this Tuesday against Benfica would automatically give them a berth in the tournament’s next round. They have been quite good defensively during the European stage, too, as they have allowed just one goal in their first three encounters. Manchester United have not lost at home in the Champions League during the Group Stage since they lost to Cluj… back in the 2012/13 season.
On the other hand, Benfica have been one of the biggest disappointments in the Champions League this season. They were considered contenders for the top spot in the group against Manchester United. But instead they lost their three games while netting just one goal and conceding eight. They need to win to remain alive. although it is not going to be easy. And if Basel defeat CSKA Moscow, then Benfica’s chances to qualify – even with a win – would diminish considerably.
There is no doubt Manchester United have been the better side throughout the season. And the win against Tottenham should defintively be a confidence booster. As such, The Red Devils have big chances to come out on top in this match.
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