Manchester United will welcome Portuguese giants Benfica at Old Trafford, in their Uefa Champions League group stage encounter.

It's a meeting between the top two sides of group C and the winner will secure qualification to the knock-out stages, thereby avoiding the pressure of the final group match a fortnight later. However, both sides will qualify if FC Basel lose at Otelul Galati in the group's other match, although that's hard to see with Basel strong favourites to win.

Man United come to this game on the back of a five-match winning streak, with five consecutive clean-sheets - a strong change in strategy since their 6-1 mauling at home to Manchester City. The Red Devils lack the zest going forward, displayed during their initial matches of the season.

However, their run of clean-sheets have come without regular pairings at center-back and center-midfield. Against Swansea during the weekend, Sir Alex had Michael Carrick partnering Ryan Giggs - his ninth different combination of the season. In defence, all of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Johnny Evans have been paired with the established two of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

With his captain, Vidic, serving his second match of a European suspension, Ferguson will be forced into yet another pairing, although the Scot doesn't seem too concerned.

There have been some changes in the team from the one that started the season,'' said Ferguson. You don't envisage having quite so many injuries.

Everyone was fresh at the start. We had been through a brilliant pre-season in the States with not one injury. Then you are hit with a little list.

It doesn't disrupt us to a great degree but it does unsettle the balance of the team.

Sometimes we have to rethink which team to play whereas when the team is in full flow you don't need to worry.

United will have their work cut-out, however, as they face a Benfica side who are unbeaten, in all competitions, so far this season. The run stretches to an incredible 18 games, including Champions League and Liga Sagres matches.

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus praised Manchester United, although he doesn't think too highly of the Premier League.

The English league is a good league but compared with Spain, Germany and Italy it is not so good.'' He said.

They (Man United) are different,'' he added.That is the reason why they have won so much.

Manchester United have different ideas and a different history. They show that on the pitch. They are much stronger technically this season. They keep the ball quite well and in almost every match they have 60% possession compared with the other team.''

The match is a repeat of the 1968 European Cup final and Sir Alex Ferguson hopes he can do justice to the memory of the legendary Sir Matt Busby.

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Manchester United will be without his skipper Nemanja Vidic, who is suspended for the tie and Johnny Evans could partner Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the defence. Tom Cleverley and Michael Owen are long-term absentee while Wayne Rooney is doubtful to start after picking up a few knocks at Swansea, during the weekend.

Benfica has no injury concerns, going into this crucial Champions League tie.


Benfica have been solid so far this season and will look to cause problems for the home side, although beating Man United at Old Trafford will be fairly difficult, to say the least. Expect a hard-fought home-win.

Manchester United 1-0 Benfica.