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Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Don't expect United-Benfica clash to be a thriller

Portuguese have little to scare hosting Red Devils

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
1 of 1

Champions League Group A
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Tuesday

Goals in the Champions League have been flying in but this could be one match where it pays to expect something less eye-catching.

Manchester United could be as little as a draw away from qualifying for the knockout stage whereas Benfica need a miracle to qualify after losing their three openers.

The first game in Lisbon two weeks ago highlighted the difference between the sides – United controlled the game while Benfica didn’t even muster a single shot on target. The English team won the match 1-0 and that was only courtesy of a goalkeeping error.

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Neither side is in particularly free-scoring form with four of both teams’ last five fixtures producing under 2.5 goals.

In a competition averaging 3.25 goals per game you can see why bookmakers rate over 2.5 goals as the favourite but this could be a time to step in and take the unders.

This is certainly a tough, competitive week for Jose Mourinho who still has a handful of top stars injured. The 1-0 win over Tottenham was an intense affair, so too will be Sunday’s showdown with former club Chelsea and in between is this European dust-up.

At Old Trafford, United are proving unbreachable – they’ve kept clean sheets in their last seven home league and European games and whichever combination Mourinho perms at the back should be more than good enough to repel Benfica’s occasional raids.

Benfica were dire at the Stadium of Light and have lost all three Group A games – the most humiliating was the 5-0 thrashing at Basel.

That makes this game an awkward one for Rui Vitoria who must assume qualification is beyond them but he can ill-afford to throw in the towel.

He didn’t even play top scorer Jonas in the first game but has to be tempted for this return tie, especially as the Brazilian predator has scored in eight consecutive league games.

It’s at the back where Vitoria has concerns with right-back Andre Almeida and centre-back Luisao suspended. Stand-in Douglas will need help to nullify United’s pacy wide men and Ruben Dias, a bright central defender, has always looked better with Luisao alongside him.

The Eagles are off the pace in the league, on a run of four European losses and not playing well.

Punters not interested in United at short odds might, given Benfica’s woes and bearing in mind the first game between the two, simply opt for the hosts to win to nil at 21-20.

But United have had their difficulties opening up teams like Southampton, Liverpool, Spurs and Benfica themselves, and that Chelsea fixture on the horizon has to be playing on Mourinho’s mind.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 11-10 Betfair, Paddy Power

Bet on this match at

Team news

Manchester United
Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marouane Fellaini, Marcos Rojo and Michael Carrick are injured.

Centre-back Luisao and right-back Andre Almeida are suspended.

Key stat
United are unbeaten in their 12 home games against Portuguese opposition with nine wins.

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At Old Trafford, United are proving unbreachable – they’ve kept clean sheets in their last seven home league and European games
E.W. Terms
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