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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Manchester United should qualify in style

Mourinho will want a shutout

Manchester United's Anthony Martial
1 of 1

Champions League Group A
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Tuesday

Manchester United's quest to reach the Champions League knockout stage has come down to matchday six but they can settle the issue in style by beating CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford.

Barring a freak set of results United are going to qualify for the last 16 and they are highly likely to do so as sectional winners.

A point against CSKA would make absolutely certain of first place but Jose Mourinho is unlikely to miss the opportunity to rest key players as he looks ahead to Sunday's Manchester derby.

Such is United's strength-in-depth that even a second-string side should be far too strong for CSKA.

Group A standings

Paul Pogba - about to start a three-match domestic suspension - may keep his place but several high-quality fringe players are likely to come into the side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still recovering from a long-term knee injury but Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can expect to be involved after being out of favour in recent weeks.

United were well below their best in last month's 1-0 loss away to Basel on matchday five but have responded with a trio of league wins at home to Brighton (1-0) and away to Watford (4-2) and Arsenal (3-1) to keep their title hopes alive.

They rode their luck at the Emirates, losing the shot count 33 to eight, but the victory (their first away to a big six side since Mourinho took the job) is a sign of the progress they are making.

United have tasted defeat in three away games this season but are generally rock-solid at home and haven't lost any of their last 39 matches at Old Trafford.

CSKA must try to take something out of the game because a defeat will condemn them to finish third whatever the outcome of Basel's trip to basement boys Benfica.

Even a narrow victory might not be enough for the Russians to progress and they take on the challenge without midfielders Pontus Wernbloom and Babars Natcho, who serve one-game bans.

Wernbloom has been playing as an emergency centre-forward and has notched five goals in the last six appearances.

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Without the Swede the main goal threat comes from Brazilian attacker Vitinho, who is CSKA's top scorer this term with eight goals in all competitions.

Their counter-attacking style is well suited to playing on the road and two of their three group wins have come in away games against Benfica and Basel, both with 2-1 scorelines.

However, those tactics may not succeed against United, who rarely leave themselves short-staffed at the back.

Mourinho's men have kept clean sheets in both of their Champions League home games, beating Basel 3-0 and Benfica 2-0, and another victory a shutout are on the cards. 

Manchester United to win to nil
1pt 17-13 188Bet

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Team news
Manchester United
Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Eric Bailly remain on the sidelines and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not feature until the weekend.

CSKA Moscow
Babars Natcho and Pontus Wernbloom are suspended.

Key stat
Manchester United have kept clean sheets in nine of their last 11 home games.

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Manchester United have kept clean sheets in nine of their last 11 home games
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