Thursday, January 18, 2018

Prediction: Manchester United vs Benfica

Verdict: Manchester United to Win to Nil

Best Odds: EVS

Bookmakers: William Hill

Group A leaders Manchester United welcome bottom of the group Benfica to Old Trafford for a Champions League fixture that could all but secure the Premier League side’s qualification to the knockout stages. Jose Mourinho’s side head into this game off the back of a hard-fought win over Tottenham at the weekend and will be hoping to sweep aside a Benfica side that have struggled thus far in their European campaign.

Manchester United

The Premier League giants have been in stunning form in the Champions League, winning all three of their European games this season. The Red Devils thus currently sit top of Group A and a win in this game would put them in a commanding position in the race for qualification to the knockout stages. Mourinho’s side have scored eight times in their three games and striker Romelu Lukaku has bagged three of their haul. The Belgian striker started the season in scintillating form but has failed to find the back of the net in his last five games. The 24-year old will hope to regain some form against a Benfica side that has been leaking goals in the Champions League so far.

Despite their brilliant start to the season Manchester United have found goals harder to come by in their past few games. Through the first five games of the season the Red Devils bagged a remarkable 15 goals, but in their last five Mourinho’s side have netted just five times. While this downturn in prolificacy in front of goal may well be of concern to United fans, their team have been able to lean on a well drilled defence that has shipped just one goal in the Champions League and four goals in the Premier League. Regardless of whether their offence starts to click again in this game Manchester United should have enough to grind out a win in this fixture.

Team News

United received a boost when central defender Eric Bailly returned to action against Tottenham at the weekend, and the Ivorian should thus feature on Tuesday.

Unfortunately Jose Mourinho is facing somewhat of an injury crisis in midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba are all still out. Longer term absentees Marcus Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fitness is trending in the right direction but the pair won’t be back in time for this fixture.

Benfica

The Portuguese side would have fancied their chances of making it out what is a relatively inoffensive Group A, aside from their opponents Manchester United, but Benfica have experienced an astonishingly poor start to their European campaign. Bottom of the group after three games having scored just once, it will take a gargantuan effort from Rui Vitoria’s side to turn their fortunes around.

What will give the Aguias some hope however is their relatively impressive domestic form. The Portuguese giants have lost just one Primeira Liga game this season and have scored 20 times in their 10 games. Equally impressively Benfica have only conceded seven times and in their previous encounter with Manchester United they kept the Premier League side at bay for most of the game, despite going a man down. The Portuguese side were also without top scorer Jonas for most of the game as the striker was recovering from injury and was only fit enough to make the bench. The Brazilian forward tops the Primeira Liga scoring charts with 12 goals and will provide Benfica’s biggest threat on Tuesday night.

Team News

The Portuguese side are facing an injury crisis of their own and will be without a whole host of defenders. Two regular starters Luisao and Andre Almeida are suspended for this game, while Douglas and Jardel will both miss out due to injury.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The last meeting between the two sides ended in a 0-1 win for Manchester United in the Estadio da Luz.
  • Manchester United have won all three of their Champions League games this season, scoring eight times.
  • Manchester United have conceded just once in three Champions League games this season.
  • Benfica have lost all three of their Champions League games this season, conceding eight times.
  • Benfica have scored just once in three Champions League games this season.

Conclusion

Benfica have been in relatively good form domestically but in the Champions League the Portuguese side have underperformed horrendously. Jose Mourinho has a tremendous home record throughout his managerial career and this should be a game that his United side can manage with relative ease. Old Trafford should give the Red Devils the edge they need to win this game, and Benfica will have a tough time trying to break down the Premier League giants.

Verdict: Manchester United to Win to Nil

Best Odds: EVS

Bookmakers: William Hill

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Steeden


Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.

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