David Moyes is anticipating a real challenge as Manchester United attempt to secure their place in the Champions League Round of 16 away at Bayer Leverkusen. A victory in Germany would send United through and possibly clinch top spot in the group with a game to spare. But, against the side sitting second in the Bundesliga, Moyes would not be surprised if qualification goes to the final match at home to third-place Shakhtar Donetsk.
“The group is very open,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “We had a good opportunity at Sociedad to defend a good position but [after a goalless draw] we have a big job here in Germany. We know it is going to be a hard game tomorrow and we have to do our job so that it doesn't go to the final game against Shakhtar.
“The next game is always the most important. My initial feeling when I saw the group was that Shakhtar would be the toughest game but this is our last away game and, as it stands, Leverkusen have great home form and are in good shape. It's going to be tough but we have to take points out of this game.”
The task is made even harder for the Premier League champions due a suspension for Marouane Fellaini and injuries that rule out experienced trio Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick. The latter trio were absent on Sunday when United conceded an injury-time equalizer to newly promoted Cardiff City.
Draws have so far been the default for United away from home in Europe under Moyes, having taken a point from trips to Dontesk and Sociedad. They did, though, come out on top when Leverkusen visited Old Trafford in September. Since then Leverkusen have lost just once as Sami Hyypia has impressed in his first season in sole charge. And the Finn, who enjoyed many a fierce contest with United during his 10 years at Liverpool, is eager for Leverkusen to play with more belief and conviction than they did at Old Trafford.
“In Manchester we were a bit frightened to play our game, but since we are at home, we want to show our qualities and play in a more uninhibited way,” he said. “Of course, United have a very good team with a lot of individual quality. We have to work as a team, then we'll be able to beat them.”
Hyypia will also be missing a key performer, with Germany international winger Sidney Sam ruled out with a thigh injury, although Sebastian Boenisch returns after missing Saturday’s victory at Hertha Berlin.
Bayer Leverkusen (probable)
D: Donati, Spahic, Toprak, Boenisch
M: Castro, Bender, Rolfes
F: Kruse, Kiessling, Son
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra
M: Jones, Cleverley
Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa
Where to watch: The Champions League Group A will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.