Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is seeking to maintain his side’s perfect record in this season’s Champions League and book an early spot in the competition’s knockout phase with a victory in Braga.
“If we win, we're through to the next phase and that's the most important part,” Ferguson said, according to Uefa.com. “Braga have a good record at home, but I think we can get the win.”
When the two sides met at Old Trafford two weeks ago, the game was a microcosm of United’s season to that point as Braga raced into a two-goal lead before the home side fought back for a 3-2 win. Since then, United have recorded two impressive results in the Premier League with victories over Chelsea and Arsenal that has taken the club to the top of the table.
Ferguson has said that he is eager to get Champions League progress ensured as soon as possible in order that he can begin rotating his squad. The legendary manager, who celebrated 26 years in charge at Old Trafford on Tuesday, spoke directly about wanting the option to give young defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones playing time as they return from injuries. It has already been confirmed by Ferguson that Smalling, who has yet to appear this season due to a broken bone in his foot, will play a part in the meeting with Braga.
Despite suffering defeat at Old Trafford, Braga will doubtless take confidence from the problems they caused United in their previous meeting. Since that narrow defeat, Jose Peseiro’s side have won their two Portuguese Liga matches and currently sit third in the standings.
Currently third in Group H of the Champions League, Braga will be desperate for any points that they can muster against United in order to boost their chances of making the knockout stages.
United will be missing both Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher to the trip to Portugal, while Braga should be at full strength.
D: Salino, Douglao, Vinicius, Elderson
M: Custodio, Viana
Amorim, Micael, Alan
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra
M: Carrick, Cleverley
Nani, Rooney, Young
F: Van Persie
Prediction: Braga profited against Manchester United’s diamond formation early on two weeks ago as both their goals were created from wide positions. After Ferguson utilized more width in the second half, United looked much better and he is likely to begin with a similar shape on Wednesday. With that in mind, United should get the victory they desire in order to secure qualification.
Braga 1-2 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Champions League Group H clash kicks-off from the Estadio Municipal de Braga at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.