The clash between ever improving Benfica and amazing Manchester United is likely to bring us plenty of excitement, but the Red Devils have got to be considered favourites at la Luz. Their extraordinary form and wealth of experience in Europe could give them the upper hand against high-flying Eagles.
Benfica doing well at the moment
Benfica have been steadily improving ever since Jorge Jesus took over the reigns some two years back and the Eagles look more than capable of the extended run in Europe’s top competition this season. The Eagles have continued to reinforce the squad, with players like Nolito, Perez, Bruno Cesar, Witsel, Garay and Emerson already proving to be very good additions, but in all fairness, Benfica have yet to face a top opponent this season. While the Eagles did well to eliminate Twente, victories over Feirense, Nacional and Vitoria Guimaraes are hardly a worthy achievement and it is against Manchester United that Jorge Jesus’ side will need to prove their worth. While this side clearly boast a lot of talent, they do lack some Champions League experience and that could prove to be a problem against mighty United. The gaffer recently hinted that he planned to adopt a more cautious approach in this clash, and that, too, could damage team’s chances as Benfica are not really used to playing cautiously.
Winger Enzo Perez is a doubt with a knee problem, while Oscar Cardozo should continue in attack after scoring two out of three penalties against Vitoria Guimaraes.
What more can you ask for?
Manchester United were expected to experience some problems at the start of the season, considering the retirement of Scholes and van der Sar, as well as the arrival of several new players, but the Red Devils managed to hit the ground running much sooner than anyone could predict and have been absolutely relentless so far. Following the narrow wins over Manchester City and West Bromwich, United scored three against Tottenham, eight against Arsenal and five against Bolton, to make this one of the best starts of a season in club’s history. While Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young have won the most plaudits, it is the entire team that have been largely impressive during the last few weeks, meaning that Benfica have every right to fear this game. Even without Ferdinand and Vidic, United look very good at the back, while there is no point talking about attack that scored 21 goals in first 5 games of the season.
Vidic, Rafael, Cleverley and Ferdinand continue to miss out, but Evra and Evans make the squad after recovering from minor knocks. Fergie announced that he would be looking to field an experienced line-up in Portugal, meaning that Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs and Park could all play a part.
Benfica have done really well at the start of the season, but the Eagles haven’t had the chance to play any big games this term and that could be a problem. Manchester United are on top of their game at the moment and their extensive experience should help them record a win at La Luz.
Our prediction: Away win
Odds: 1.95 (19/20)