Braga v Manchester United Preview
Estadio Municipal, Braga
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Braga provided Manchester United with a scare two weeks ago at Old Trafford, but with progression to the next round in sight the Red Devils will be looking to put in a more complete effort in Portugal while hoping that Group H rivals Galatasaray can get something out of their visit to Cluj.
BREAKDOWN: Braga raced out to an early 2-0 lead at Old Trafford on October 23 thanks to a pair of goals from winger Alan, but a Javier Hernandez brace and rare strike from Jonny Evans eventually turned the tide in favour of United, who were able to maintain their 100 per cent record in the bracket.
Braga, with just three points from three rounds, are a point back of Cluj in the race for second-place, and manager Jose Peseiro is adamant his side will do a better job of keeping their concentration than they did a fortnight ago when they conceded three straight goals.
“If you are going to win against Manchester Untied you have to be focussed,” he told reporters in his pre-match press conference. “We need to have some possession but must not attack too hard. It’s not even worth thinking that we can crush United,” he said, adding, “If we are cool and calm, we can beat them.”
United, for their part, have been perfecting mullet football this season. While they’ve consistently been able to do the business up front, they’ve also been something of a party in the back. Sir Alex Ferguson, however, has only one objective in mind for Wednesday: booking a place in the last 16 that eluded his side a year ago.
“The most important thing is to go through,” said the United boss. “If we win we’re through to the next phase, and that’s the most important part. Braga have a good record at home, but I think we can get the win.”
Braga have won each of their last four home matches against English opposition and come into Wednesday’s match unbeaten in their last five league matches. United have a fairly good record in Portugal and are atop the Premier League as they prepare for Wednesday’s encounter.
ESSENTIALS: Braga will be without Paulo Vinicius and Paolo Cesar through injury, but Douglao is likely to at least be on the bench following a three-match absence.
United are still making do without defenders Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic, although Chris Smalling could be on the bench at kickoff. Playmaker Shinji Kagawa has a knee injury and Danny Welbeck is doubtful with a knee problem as well.
On Tuesday Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 26 years at Manchester United—an era that has produced 12 league titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and four league cups.
KEY BATTLE: Alan absolutely destroyed United’s right flank early on at Old Trafford, something Rafael will no doubt be aware of when the two sides square off again on Wednesday. Alan, the 33-year-old Braga captain, will be playing on the left of his side’s attack and will likely draw significant attention from United winger Antonio Valencia as well.
FORMATIONS: Peseiro will be using a 4-2-3-1 fronted by Brazilian striker Eder and supported by Helder Barbosa, Mossoro and Alan. Ferguson’s formation is anyone’s guess. But if the Scot sticks to something resembling the side that beat Arsenal 2-1 on Saturday he’ll also go 4-2-3-1 with Robin Van Persie up top and Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Valencia just behind him.
BETLINE: Braga 23/10; Draw 12/5; Manchester United 6/5. United have won five of 11 matches in Portugal in European club competition.