English champions Manchester United welcome Swiss champions FC Basel to Old Trafford on Tuesday evening looking to register their first win in this season’s competition, despite being without a whole host of first team players.
Manchester United drew their opening game of the group against Benfica while Basel topped the group after seeing off newcomers Otelul Galati on Matchday One. Basel manager Thorsten Fink will never forget when he last managed a team against United, in the 1999 Champions League final, when he took off Lothar Mattheus and his Bayern side lost 2-1 in injury time.
United are expected to be without eight senior players for the clash, with Javier Hernandez the latest to be ruled out. Wayne Rooney is expected to be out “for weeks” with a hamstring injury that ruled him out of United’s 1-1 draw with Stoke according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Rooney (groin), Hernandez (dead leg), Smalling (groin), Vidic (calf), Evans (ankle), Rafael (shoulder), Cleverley (foot) and Gibson (ankle) are among the list of players who failed to train at Carrington, United’s training ground complex, on Monday morning.
Basel are without star playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri, as he sits out his two-match suspension tomorrow. He will be a big miss for the vistors who are also without central midfielder Benjamin Huggel. Former West Ham player Radoslav Kovac is expected to start for Basel.
Ferguson has to choose between Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda in attack for Tuesday evening and Fabio might finally get a look in at right back, a position Antonio Valencia has been occupying recently. Despite not being full strength, the hosts are favourites to see off the challenge of Basel and get the three points on the board that will kick start their campaign.
Players to Watch:
Manchester United: Dimitar Berbatov.
The Bulgarian has fallen from grace at Old Trafford and struggled to make any sort of impact at the weekend against Stoke. If he starts tomorrow, it might very well be his last chance to make an impression on Sir Alex since Chicharito is expected to return soon. The Bulgarian’s time at Old Trafford is almost up unless he can get his head up and prove his critics wrong.
FC Basel: Alexander Frei.
With the classy Shaqiri unavailable due to suspension, Frei has to shoulder the goal-scoring responsibility. The 32-year-old faces a gigantic task as he comes up against the rock-solid partnership of Ferdinand and Jones but Frei still has an eye for goal and will be hoping to get a chance to score at Old Trafford.
An injury-ravaged Manchester United are expected to see off Basel but it might not be as easy as many bookies would have you bet on a United win. Basel could put up a fight but I expect United to get their first win of the campaign.