MANCHESTER UNITED v/s BRAGA
UEFA Champions League
KO – 18:45 GMT
REFREE – Milord Mazic
After nearly a month’s break Europe’s premier club competition return to the Theatre of Dreams. Manchester United who have won their opening matches in the competition will be vary of the danger Braga pose, especially away from home . Braga defeated Galatasaray in Turkey on the last match day extending their unbeaten record away from home to 8 matches. United manager admitted to the fact that Braga is a much potent team away from home in Europe. The sides have never met before in any competition thus far.
United had a mixed result at the weekend. They managed to beat Stoke City 4-2 in the end but the hiccups in the middle were too big to ignore. The biggest problem for the United manager this season has been the fact that his team sleeps for most of the first half and only comes to life either after going behind or in the second half. Against smaller/weaker teams this problem is tackled but in the Champions League such performances will end in disaster. Defensive problem continue to provide Ferguson a headache and the weekend was a clear display of the same. One positive thing that was evident against Stoke was the telepathic understanding of the front three i.e. Welbeck, Rooney and Persie. Time and again United were creating chances and the trio were involved in the buildup. All the goals had the strikers involved in some way or the other. Welbeck may have to start on the bench as Braga provides a bigger threat as compared to Stoke. Cleverly and Kagawa were not involved at the weekend and will be expected to start this game with Scholes and Carrick rested keeping the Chelsea game in mind.
Jose Peseiro’s side loves the art of counter attack. Braga are a team with natural attacking flair. Their midfield and attack predominantly contains Brazilians and Portuguese players which at their best are a pleasant sight. Hugo Viana, who has played in England for Newcastle United is one of their key players in midfield. Helder Barbosa, who started his career in the youth team of Porto, has had a productive season thus far. His partnership with Eder, another Portuguese has been at the forefront of the Braga attack. Defensively Braga’s problems are as big as their English opponents. Their attacking flair is very good but they nearly concede one goal for every goal scored. In their domestic league they have conceded 11 goals in 6 games which is not something to be proud of. Against United who have a world class attacking lineup, Braga will be need to shore up defenses otherwise they will be in for a torrid 90 minutes at Old Trafford as United have scored for 18 matches in a row in Europe. The Portuguese club enjoyed a good weekend domestically. Led by a brace from Eder, Braga ran out comfortable winners against Rio AVE. Braga are on a 8 game unbeaten run away from home in Europe but United are unbeaten against Portuguese opposition which makes for a very interesting match at Old Trafford.
Manchester United – United may have won against Stoke at the weekend but the defensive frailties were on full display. Despite that and all the injuries, Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to leave Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra out of the match day squad keeping in mind United travel to Chelsea at the weekend. The English duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are still at least a couple of weeks away from returning to full fitness which makes the exclusion of Ferdinand a bit perplexing. Ashley Young return to first team action after recovering from a knee problem. Cleverly and Kagawa are expected to start against the Portuguese outfit. United have plenty of attacking options with Rooney, Persie, Welbeck and Hernandez all in good shape.
Braga – Jose Pesiero have a clean bill of health which is very important as he will taking his side to one of the best attacking lineups in the world. Faced by the combination of Persie and Rooney, the Braga back three, usually deployed by the manager will be have to be at their best. Custodio, the defensive midfielder who brilliantly shields the defense will play an important role in the match as the home team will create attacking waves in abundance. Braga are a very good attacking force and the likes of Viana, Alan(captain), Eder will be constant menace for the English side. Ruben Michael, on loan from Spanish side Atletico Madrid has settled in quickly at his new club and has become an important cog in the Braga wheel.
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney – Over the years Wayne Rooney has the habit of scoring goals in a cluster. After hitting 3 goals in 2 games for his country, Rooney scored a brace for his club at the weekend. With such imperious form, Rooney will again be the player that United will look to bank upon against the Portuguese side.
Braga – Custodio – With the entire attacking caliber at display. Custodio will have a very important role to play in the match. He will have the tough task of keeping the United strikers at bay. Braga have been poor defensively this season and if they are to maintain the unbeaten away record in Europe, the Portuguese midfielder will have to have one of his best games this season.
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