The Champions League is back and it feels like ages since United claimed victory in Portugal on a night when things were not exactly straight-forward, thanks to an unforced error from the 18-year old goalkeeper Mile Svilar.
On Tuesday night, for the Red Devils, the pathway to the Round of 16 is clear. Better CSKA Moscow’s result versus Basel and they will secure their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. With that in mind, it is expected that Mourinho will go all in on Tuesday night with his strongest first eleven available to extend his 100% record at Old Trafford this season in a bid to confirm progress as early as November. They go into this fixture on the back of a hard-fought and efficient 1-0 win against fellow title rivals Spurs and a similar result would not be too bad for the momentum they seem to be generating again.
After the defeat to Manchester United on match-day three, the Portuguese giants have raised their game to recover some form going into Tuesday – with two wins on the bounce in the Portuguese league. SL Benfica, two-time winner of the European Cup have been very poor in the Champions League this season – an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to FC Basel, being the low-light of a forgettable tournament. They have lost all three games in the group stages and are on a four-game losing streak in Europe, but could still realistically make it to the Europa League by virtue of finishing third – which is all to play for.
United continue to miss midfielder Paul Pogba (hamstring) who is nearing full-fitness after suffering a hamstring injury. Joining him on the sidelines will be Michael Carrick (calf), Marcos Rojo (ACL), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ACL) and Marouane Fellaini (MCL) – all in varying stages of recovery.
André Almeida will complete a two-match ban while Luisão will serve a one-match suspension after being sent off on matchday three.
- Mourinho’s men have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 15 matches in all competitions.
- Having gone down 4-0 in Dortmund in last spring’s last 16, Benfica have won only three of their last 14 away fixtures in Europe, losing seven. They picked up four points on their travels in last season’s group stage.
- The Madrid loss is United’s only defeat in their last 15 European matches, home and away (W11 D3).
- Mile Svilar, 18, became the youngest goalkeeper to play in the UEFA Champions League when he started against United on matchday three, breaking Iker Casillas’s 18-year-old record.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Anthony Martial has been one of the best players at Manchester United this season – both in the domestic competitions and more importantly, Europe. The Frenchman netted a vital goal in the 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, that saw United go three points above them in the league – arresting a run of two win-less games (D 1 L 1) in the Premier League. The 21-year old has scored and assisted 3 goals in 2 starts in the Champions League and is likely to make a big impact again on Tuesday when it counts as he has done for most of the season so far.
Jonas – Benfica
Benfica really need a positive result on Tuesday to keep their hopes of staying in Europe alive. Following the defeat in the previous meeting with Manchester United, the Portuguese side managed to win two games on the spin – making it 3 wins in 4 in the Portuguese first division, with Jonas making significant contributions, scoring three of four goals the club had managed to, in that period.
United have not conceded at Old Trafford this season and it will take a clinical performance from the in-form forward for Benfica to take something back home, something he is entirely capable of.
United to achieve what is the bare minimum in this competition.
Manchester United 2-0 Benfica