SL BENFICA VS MANCHESTER UNITED
KICK OFF - 19:45 BST
VENUE - Estadio Da Luz, Lisbon
REFEREE - Damir Skomina [SVN]
Benfica play host to Manchester United for the first time since 2006 in the opening fixture of the UEFA Champions League 2011/12 season. In that game in 2006, Manchester United came away as 0-1 winners - a solitary goal from Louis Saha the difference on that occasion. Manchester United come into this game fresh off their 200th away win in the Premier League, a 5-0 win at Bolton thanks to 3 goals from Wayne Rooney and a brace from Javier Hernandez. Benfica come into this game after a 2-1 win at home to Vitoria Guimaraes, with a brace from the penalty spot from Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo.
Last 3 Meetings
December 6 2006 (UCL) || Manchester United 3-1 Benfica
September 26 2006 (UCL) || Benfica 0-1 Manchester United
December 7 2005 (UCL) || Benfica 2-1 Manchester United
Benfica are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 line up, although manager Jorge Jesus is known to chop and change his tactics depending on the match. Artur is expected to start in goal with the regular back four of Emerson, Garay, Luisao and Pereira in front of him. Javi Garcia is likely to shield the back four with summer signing Alex Witsel expected to play alongside him, but with some more attacking freedom. The front four ahead of them has multiple options but the most likely and most threatening (judging by this season) is Nolito, Aimar, Gaitan and Cardozo. Nolito has already scored 3 goals this season and is Benfica's top scorer in Europe.
Manchester United are expected to name a strong side, but not their strongest due to their upcoming fixture at Old Trafford on Sunday against title challengers Chelsea. Sir Alex Ferguson has stated how important it is to win the opening fixture of the tournament to get off to a good start so a lot of experience will be in the side. David De Gea is almost certain to start between the sticks for the visitors, but the defence isn't so certain. With such versatility in the side now, plus some injuries it's difficult to predict. I expect Fabio to play at right back, with Smalling and Jones at centre half with either Evans or Evra at left back. The midfield is again difficult to choose due to upcoming fixtures and great choice. I expect Michael Carrick to replace the injured Tom Cleverley in central midfield along with Anderson, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young to start on the wings. Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez should be allowed to continue their form and partnership to start up front in Portugal.
- Summer signing Nolito has scored in each of his first 5 outings for Benfica.
- Oscar Cardozo has scored 8 goals in his last 7 games for club and country.
- Benfica have won three out of four of their opening league fixtures, drawing the other - scoring 9 and conceding 4.
- Benfica need 1 more goal to reach 50 in the UEFA Champions League
- Wayne Rooney has scored 8 league goals in 4 league games this season, more than every other Premier League team except Manchester City.
- Manchester United have scored 18 goals and conceded just 3 in their opening 4 league games.
- Manchester United didn't concede a single away goal in last seasons Champions League.
- United's away record against Portuguese teams is - W5 D1 L4
Due to the form of both sides I think it's going to be a close game, however I think the overall quality of the squads should see Manchester United come away victorious in this fixture. David De Gea kept another clean sheet at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, which will do him the world of good, but Oscar Cardozo is in fine form so I don't see that happening again.
BENFICA 1-3 MAN UTD
Cardozo || Rooney,Young
Match Preview originally written for DMF's Football World
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CONFIRMED LINE UPS
BENFICA XI: Artur, Emerson, Luisao, Maxi, Garay, Amorim, Garcia, Aimar, Gaitan, Witsel, Cardozo.
MUFC XI: Lindegaard, Fabio, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Valencia, Park, Rooney
Subs; De Gea, Jones, Anderson, Nani, Hernandez, Berbatov, Owen