Preview – Manchester United vs SC Braga

by Sam Peoples

It has been 20 days since Manchester United came from behind to beat CFR Cluj 2-1 in Romania on match day two of the Champions League.

A lot of football has happened in that time with two Premier League victories against Newcastle and Stoke as well as a double game international break for a lot of the squad.

Braga will be United’s second of four games in 12 days in a period that will no doubt see some rotation brought in to keep the team fresh. In our last Champions League outing against Cluj, we saw the first glimpse of a midfield diamond formation with Fletcher sitting as a holding midfielder allowing Cleverley and Anderson to roam in front. It gave us the freedom and space for a short, incisive passing game and played to the strengths of our ball playing attackers.

It was a tough 2-1 victory but a victory nevertheless and if United can grab three points against Braga, we will be sitting pretty on nine points atop the Champions League group and sit on the edge of early qualification, something that will help us no end with such a busy schedule coming up.

Braga may be minnows in comparisons to the powerhouses that exist in the Champions League but they are not going to be easy to beat. They come into the game tomorrow on the back of an unbeaten streak of five in all competitions and having already beaten Galatasaray away in this group stage, they know what it takes to win on tough grounds.

Their player to look out for will no doubt be Hugo Viana, who is the most experienced Braga player with 20 Champions League appearances under his belt but United will go into the game as firm favourites.

Sir Alex has today confirmed that Ferdinand and Evra will be rested for the match and Young will make his return from injury. With emphasis placed on how many wide players we have available at the press conference, I expect us to line up with our traditional 4-4-2 formation.

The boss also mentioned that Cleverley and Kagawa will play tomorrow and it is likely that we will see a rather aggressive line-up from United. Conceding early goals has damaged us terribly this season but the potency of our attack has stopped it from being a problem thus far.

With Ferdinand and Evra rested, we are likely to be weak at the back tomorrow again, so the onus will be on the attack to retain possession as much as possible so to take pressure away from our inexperienced defence. Here’s my predicted XI.

Onto my prediction. With clean sheets looking unlikely when our defence is at full strength, I can’t see us keeping one tomorrow but the added energy of Anderson and Cleverley in the midfield would give us a vitality in the middle we lack when playing 4-4-2. I hope we play with a sitting holding midfielder tomorrow as the added protection would be vital with an inexperienced defence.

I think that Braga will be tough a nut to crack. They were runners up in the Europa League only recently, so they know what to do on tough European away nights. However, after last years performances in the Champions League, the players will know there is no room for complacency.

I’m going to go for a 3-1 victory with Kagawa getting himself on the score sheet.


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