United likely to continue with conservative approach
Onus on Benfica to push for victory
Champions League Group A
BT Sport 2 & Showcase, 7.45pm Wednesday
Jose Mourinho shrugged off any amount of flak over his tactics at Anfield on Saturday and he will be equally dismissive of any criticism should Manchester United succeed in avoiding defeat at Benfica.
With two Group A wins already secured, injuries a headache and a Premier League awayday to come on Saturday (albeit at Huddersfield), Mourinho knows that a dour draw at the Estadio da Luz will be just the job to inch the Europa League winners closer to a place in the last 16 – even if it won’t thrill his critics.
Benfica, on the other hand, need to come out firing having lost both their openers but Mourinho will know exactly what’s required to cancel out the home side.
And after the performances of the Eagles in their first two matches, it’s questionable whether they’ve got it in them to trouble United. Their 5-0 thumping in Basel was their heaviest ever Champions League loss and they have won only one of their last five league and European encounters.
Impressive striker Jonas has scored eight in his last eight matches alongside Haris Seferovic, who has slotted in well. But they’ve already fallen behind Porto and Sporting in the Primeira Liga and all’s not well in the capital.
A win over United and ex-Porto chief Mourinho would be incredibly special and reignite their campaign.
But this is the type of fixture – just like at Liverpool at the weekend – that Mourinho is the master of managing and they can extend their unbeaten sequence to 12 matches.
Champions League previews
The draw is the preferred bet though there’s also a case for backing at least one team not to score at around evens. United have kept clean sheets in eight of their last 11 and were super-solid in Moscow last time out, when Benfica old boy Victor Lindelof was selected to form a back three or five, and the Swede may well be deployed alongside Phil Jones and Chris Smalling once more.
United will want to control the game though they do have exceptional pace to utilise on the counter and Benfica are without first-choice right-back Andre Almeida.
Romelu Lukaku, with 16 this season for United and Belgium, was accused of going missing at Anfield on Saturday, though support was scarce and Liverpool’s defence strong. Seasoned Lukaku watchers know that he has the odd no-show in him though he should be looking forward to getting one on one with Luisao, especially if he’s seen the problems the Basel front three gave the ageing Brazilian.
1pt 11-4 general
Right-back Andre Almeida is suspended.
Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick and Marcos Rojo are injured.
United have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 matches.
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