Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Midweek Preview: 6th December 2006

Manchester United vs Benfica (Champions League Group Stages)

" We could have wrapped this up 2 games ago. How the hell did we get ourselves into this?" - Sheena

This week's Champions League game against Benfica is really make-or-break as after our losses to Copenhagen and Celtic, our Champions League place is hanging in the balance. For a team of United's calibre, drawn in a relatively easy group and having managed to avoid all the heavyweights, top spot shouldn't even have been a problem, much less qualification itself. But now we face a dreadful repeat of the match that knocked us out of the Champions League Group Stage in 2005 - and against the same team.

From taking a maximum 9 points in our first 3 matches and needing only a draw in the 4th to qualify, the Red Devils failed miserably and now face a potential struggle against some very tricky opponents. As it stands, here's how Man Utd can qualify - or be knocked out (from the Man Utd website):

- Draw or beat Benfica: Celtic, United qualify
- Defeat: Benfica, Celtic qualify. United enter UEFA Cup
- United must better Celtic's result v Copenhagen to finish top (Celtic lose: United need a draw v Benfica; Celtic draw: United must win)
- If Celtic win United can't finish top due to results against each other (agg 3-3, Celtic top on away goals

On paper, it doesn't seem all that tough. Man Utd only need a draw to go through, and they're playing at home.

However, Benfica are no walkover. For some reason we've never done well against Portuguese teams in Europe - Porto and Benfica are like our bogey teams. Furthermore the group is so close that a win for Benfica will mean qualification. So they will be wanting a win, they will go all out for it, and what better place for them to do it than at Old Trafford where they can have the added satisfaction of dumping Man Utd out a second time? Last season we only needed a draw as well, but we still lost to Benfica and got dumped out - bottom of the group, without even the UEFA Cup as a consolation.

A repeat of that scenario would be unthinkable, and the players will really need to be mentally prepared to handle the pressure of this match.

Hopefully Benfica's need to win will force them to open up and come attacking at Old Trafford. If they do that Man Utd will have a good chance on the counterattacks. Sir Alex cannot afford to field a weakened team in this match. Benfica have a very strong team with especially good wingers like Simao Sabrosa and a tricky playmaker in Rui Costa.

Like Wayne Rooney said after the Boro match, Man Utd have to learn how to kill opponents off and early. In a season spanning 60 games, that may not be such a handicap, but in a knockout tournament pitting you against the best of Europe, if you don't do that, you're just a sitting duck.

Man to watch (Man Utd): Cristiano Ronaldo. He often rises to these big occasions, and being that Benfica is a rival of his boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, he will be all the more fired up. He will take a lot of flak from the supporters, but that will just serve to spur him on.

Man to watch (Benfica): Simao Sabrosa. His pace and trickery cause major problems for any defence, and his talents have attracted the attention of many big clubs.

Jaywalk's Encyclopaedia of Bookies' Odds says: Man Utd is giving 1.25 ball handicap and decimal odds 1.925 to beat it. He thinks we will scrape a 1-0 win or get away with a 1-1 draw. For once, I'm agreeing with him. ;p

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


At 7:31 AM, December 07, 2006, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

man u win, celtic lose.. somehow man u top of the table.. wah lao.. against barcelona?? lol

At 9:37 AM, December 07, 2006, Anonymous JayWalk said...

Once again, we leaked a stupid goal before having come back from behind to get us out of trouble.

The good news is that isn't it deja vu from the days of 1999?

At 4:24 PM, December 07, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

It won't meet Barcelona since both teams are seeded and are slated not to meet so soon.

At 8:03 PM, December 07, 2006, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

possible teams to face Man Utd: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Roma, PSV and Lille..

i foreseeing Roma or Lille.. last season also kana Lille in the group stage..

At 9:56 PM, December 07, 2006, Blogger Merenwen said...

I'm hoping we avoid Real and Inter.


Post a Comment

<< Home