The Champions League is back, and it feels like an age since United claimed victory against Benfica. The previous meeting was not exactly straight-forward, had it not been for the unforced error from the eighteen year old goalkeeper Mile Svilar, things could easily have been different.
On Tuesday night, the route to the last sixteen is simple for the Red Devils. Better CSKA Moscow’s result versus Basel, and they will secure their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. It is expected that Mourinho will go all in on Tuesday night with his strongest available 11, hoping to extend his 100% record at Old Trafford this season and confirm Champion’s League progress as early as November. They go into this fixture on the back of a hard-fought and efficient 1-0 win against fellow title rivals Spurs, and another positive result would help to keep the momentum they have been generating.
After the defeat to Manchester United on match day three, SL Benfica have raised their game to recover some form going into Tuesday — two wins on the bounce in the Portuguese league. On the other hand, the two-time winners of the European Cup have been very poor in the Champions League this season — an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to FC Basel being the low-light of a forgettable tournament. They have lost all three games in the group stages, and are on a four game losing streak in Europe. Despite this, they could still realistically make it to the Europa League by virtue of finishing third— so it is still all to play for.
United continue to miss midfielder Paul Pogba who is nearing full-fitness after suffering a hamstring injury. Joining him on the sidelines will be Michael Carrick (calf), Marcos Rojo (ACL), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ACL) and Marouane Fellaini (MCL) — all in varying stages of recovery.
André Almeida will complete a two-match ban while Luisão will serve a one-match suspension after being sent off on match day three.
- Mourinho’s side have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 15 matches in all competitions.
- Having gone down 4-0 in Dortmund in last spring’s last 16, Benfica have won only three of their last 14 away fixtures in Europe, losing seven. They picked up four points on their travels in last season’s group stage.
- The Madrid loss is United’s only defeat in their last 15 European matches, home and away (W11 D3).
- Mile Svilar, 18, became the youngest goalkeeper to play in the UEFA Champions League when he started against United on matchday three, breaking Iker Casillas’s 18-year-old record.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Anthony Martial has been one of the best players at Manchester United this season, both in the domestic competitions and more importantly, Europe. The Frenchman netted a vital goal in the 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur that saw United go three points above them in the league, arresting a run of two winless games (D 1 L 1) in the Premier League. The 21-year old has scored and assisted three goals in two starts in the Champions League, and is likely to make a big impact again on Tuesday — as he has done for most of the big games this season.
Jonas – Benfica
Benfica really need a positive result on Tuesday to keep their hopes of staying in Europe alive. Following the defeat in the previous meeting with Manchester United, the Portuguese side managed to win two games on the spin, making it three wins in four in the Portuguese first division. Jonas has been making a significant contribution — scoring three of the four goals the club has managed in that period.
United have not conceded at Old Trafford this season and it will take a clinical performance from the in-form forward for Benfica to take something back home, something he is entirely capable of.
United to achieve what is for them the bare minimum in this competition.
Manchester United 2-0 Benfica.