Tuesday, February 21, 2017

UEFA Champions League Group H preview: Three-way fight for second

SoccerNews in English Premier League 19 Nov 2012

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Galatasaray, Cluj and Braga are set to scrap it out for second place behind Manchester United in Group H of the UEFA Champions League.

English Premier League heavyweights United are eight points clear at the top of the group and have already secured passage to the knockout stages of the 2012/13 competition.

United’s 100 percent record to date is a far cry from their dismal showing last term, when they were spectacularly dumped out at the first hurdle after finishing third behind Basel and Benfica.

Four victories from four matches played means Alex Ferguson’s men are sitting pretty on 12 points, with Turkish giants Galatasaray second on four points, level with Romanian side Cluj, who are third.

Portuguese side Braga are just one point back in fourth spot, and cannot be discounted in the tight tussle to join United in the round of 16.

Cluj have a surprise 2-0 win at Braga on matchday one to thank for their competitive position in the group, a result which was followed by defeat at home to United and a credible 1-1 draw at Galatasaray.

They went down 3-1 in the return fixture against Galatasaray last time out, and now welcome Braga to Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu, followed by a daunting assignment away to United on the final matchday.

In less than ideal preparation for the key clash, Cluj went down 2-0 at home to Astra Giurgiu in domestic action on Saturday.

Braga meanwhile recorded a comfortable 3-1 win at lower-league club Pampilhosa in the Taca de Portugal.

The other game on Tuesday sees United travel to Galatasaray, a re-run of the two clubs’ famous second-round meeting in the 1993/94 European Cup.

United gave up a 2-0 lead to be trailing 3-2 in the first leg at home, before scrambling a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford.

They were met with an extraordinarily hostile reception in the return fixture in Istanbul, and duly held to a 0-0 draw as the Turkish side progressed on away goals.

It may come as some relief to Ferguson that his team do not need a result this time around as they return to the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi 19 years later.

One man able to provide his insight into the clash is assistant manager Mike Phelan, who started the match alongside the likes of United greats Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona.

Remarkably, there is a chance Ryan Giggs, who patrolled the left flank in the same team, could feature on Tuesday, with the evergreen Welshman still playing at the highest level as he nears his 39th birthday later this month.

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