MX23RW : Monday, September 27 16:45:14| >> :120:8220:8220:
Oct 31, 2017 at 7.45pm UK at Old Trafford
Attendance: 74,437
Man UtdManchester United
Svilar (45' og.), Blind (78' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Manchester United vs. Benfica

Sports Mole previews Manchester United's Champions League clash with Benfica at Old Trafford including predicted lineups, team news and a form guide.

Manchester United could seal a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare when they welcome Benfica to Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Jose Mourinho's side lead the way in Group A with three wins from three, whereas Benfica have lost all three of their games and find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Man Utd

Jose Mourinho gesticulates during the Champions League group game between Benfica and Manchester United on October 18, 2017© Offside

Having only qualified for the Champions League by virtue of their Europa League success last season, Manchester United have so far made the most of their return to the biggest stage in European club football.

The Red Devils have not dropped a single point on their way to top spot in Group A, scoring eight goals in their three outings and conceding just one in the process to leave themselves on the verge of the knockout stages.

Another victory on Tuesday would clinch a place in the last 16 should CSKA Moscow fail to beat Basel in the group's other game, while even a draw would be enough if CSKA lose in Switzerland.

Mourinho's side will certainly be favourites to hold up their end of the bargain having lost just one of their last 15 European outings, with that defeat coming at the hands of Champions League holders Real Madrid in August's UEFA Super Cup clash.

Madrid were also the last team to beat United at home in European competition, doing so during the 2012-13 Champions League last 16. Since then, United have won 15 and drawn four of their 19 European home outings, while in all competitions it is now 36 matches since they tasted defeat in front of their own fans, stretching all the way back to September 2016.

Last season was a tale of frustration at Old Trafford for the most part due to the number of points dropped in draws, but so far this term they have won all seven of their home matches across all competitions, scoring 22 goals and conceding only one in the process.

The most recent of those was a narrow 1-0 victory over fellow title hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, with Anthony Martial scoring the only goal of the game to consolidate United's position in second place and keep them five points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The result also saw them return to winning ways in the Premier League following their shock defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town the previous weekend - a result which remains their only loss in their last 15 outings, while they have also kept 11 clean sheets in that time.

It may be premature to suggest that the glory days are on their way back to Old Trafford, but their current form is the best since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and meetings with Benfica will always evoke memories of some of their greatest moments - from the night George Best was dubbed 'El Beatle' in 1966 to their first European Cup triumph two years later.

The reverse fixture a fortnight ago will not live as long in the memory, but another win on Tuesday could prove to be a notable moment in the club's recent history should it be enough to see them reach the knockout stages of the competition.

Recent form: WWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWLWW


Mile Svilar looks upset during the Champions League group game between Benfica and Manchester United on October 18, 2017© Offside

Benfica would have entered this season's group stage with realistic ambitions of joining Manchester United in qualifying for the knockout rounds, and perhaps even challenging Mourinho's side for top spot.

To still be waiting for their first point of the campaign at the halfway stage will be hugely disappointing for the two-time European champions, then, and another defeat on Tuesday could see their hopes dashed with two games to spare.

Should United win and Basel avoid defeat against CSKA Moscow then Benfica will be unable to finish in the top two, and even a draw at Old Trafford would not be enough if Basel beat CSKA in Switzerland.

Qualification for the Europa League would remain a possibility, but Benfica would need to drastically improve their form during the second half of the group stages, having conceded eight times and scored just once from their three outings so far - including their biggest ever Champions League defeat when they lost 5-0 to Basel on matchday two.

The Eagles made it into the knockout rounds last season, but they have now lost four European matches in a row for the first time in their illustrious history and have won just one of their last seven Champions League outings.

Benfica have also only won three of their last 14 away fixtures in Europe, losing half of those and conceding nine goals without reply in their most recent two.

Rui Vitoria's side are playing catch-up domestically too, with last season's Portuguese double-winners five points adrift of leaders and fierce rivals Benfica at the top of the Primeira Liga table and currently sitting outside the Champions League places.

Benfica have won their last two matches since losing to United in the reverse, though, and should they pull off an upset at Old Trafford then it would make it three consecutive away wins for the first time since March.

The Eagles have lost 10 of their previous 16 visits to England, though, including that famous 1968 European Cup final when Sir Matt Busby led United to their first continental trophy at Wembley just 10 years after the Munich air disaster.

Recent Champions League form: LLL
Recent form (all competitions): LDWLWW

Team News

Jose Mourinho gives instructions to Anthony Martial during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur on October 28, 2017© Offside

Martial will be hopeful of a starting role having scored his fourth goal of the season off the bench to fire United past Tottenham at the weekend, and his chances are likely to be helped by Mourinho's luxury to rotate.

With a trip to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge looming, the hosts could rest some key players due to their dominance of Group A so far, although the likes of Romelu Lukaku and David de Gea are still expected to start.

Paul Pogba (hamstring), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Michael Carrick (calf), Marcos Rojo (knee) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) remain sidelined for United, but Mourinho was able to welcome Eric Bailly back into the fold against Spurs.

Lukaku has failed to score in his last five games following a blistering start to the season, but he has still scored 16 goals in 18 outings for club and country so far this term.

Benfica will be without suspended duo Andre Almeida and Luisao, the latter of whom was sent off in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.

Rui Vitoria must decide whether to keep faith with 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who became the youngest shot-stopper in Champions League history during the reverse but made a costly error which ultimately condemned his side to defeat.

Jonas is expected to come into the side having sat out the last time these two sides met, with the Brazilian scoring 12 league goals in 10 games this season, including finding the back of the net in his last eight Liga games.

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Matic, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku

Benfica possible starting lineup:
Svilar; Douglas, Lopez, Dias, Grimaldo; Salvio, Pizzi, Fejsa, Augusto, Goncalves; Jonas

Head To Head

This will be the 11th meeting between these two historic clubs, with United winning seven of the previous 10 encounters, including the 1968 European Cup final.

Benfica have only ever beaten the Red Devils once before - a 2-1 win in December 2005 which dumped United out of the competition in the groups - since when there have been two United wins and two draws between the sides.

The most recent meeting ended 2-2 at Old Trafford in November 2011, with Phil Jones scoring an own goal along with a Pablo Aimar strike to cancel out goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher.

United are unbeaten in their previous 12 home games against Portuguese opposition, winning nine of those.

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We say: Man Utd 2-0 Benfica

United only scraped past Benfica in Portugal and, while things should be more straightforward at Old Trafford, it is unlikely to all be one-way traffic. The hosts may have one eye on Chelsea at the weekend, but should still have enough to make it four wins from four in Group A.

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Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring the second during the Premier League game between Manchester United and West Ham United on August 13, 2017
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