Monday, 11 September 2017

Manchester United vs FC Basel preview

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      After a long wait, the Champions League music will finally be echoing in Old Trafford! Let's be honest, UCL nights without the most successful team in England is always incomplete. Manchester United take on FC Basel in a group A fixture tomorrow night. After the disappointing loss draw away to Stoke City, it'll be some respite to get a win in Europe.
      We're drawn in a relatively easier group with Benfica, CSKA and of course, Basel. However, let this not cloud the fact that the last time we were in a group with Basel and Benfica, we were sent packing to the Europa league. Also, the last time we played CSKA, we scrapped a draw and a win. All the teams in the Champions League are there for a reason and no team in the most elite club competition should be considered a pushover.
      Mourinho though, is an expert at winning trophies and especially in knockout tournaments. He won the Champions League with Porto and Inter and won us two knockout competitions last season - the League Cup and the Europa League. After the disappointing losses away to Feyenoord and Fenerbache, we really upped our game and took the Europa league head on. Yes, we seemed to get  the easier tie every time but we were brilliantly poised and well organized throughout. The way we shut Ajax out completely and took our chances, showed the signs of an efficient team. That night, Jose dared us to dream. And tomorrow, that dream begins.

      Let's head to the predicted lineups now! This lineup is my preferred 11 combined with what I think Jose will pick.
      Goalkeeper: I feel Romero will start in goal because Jose trusted the Argentinean with all Europa League games last season. A part of me feels that if he does well enough to get us here, he should start these games as well. And why not? Romero is a very talented keeper and the world's best second choice. Another part of me thinks that it will be very foolish to leave, arguably the world's best goalkeeper, on the bench for a Champions League game. Thus, I think that Jose will go for De Gea and let Romero play the FA Cup and League Cup games.
      Defenders: At right back, it's no doubt that captain Valencia will be starting. The man has started all games for us including the two games for Ecuador, in South America. He then flew back a day before, traveled to Stoke with the squad and played 90 mins there as well. Though he didn't play too well, he still gave it his all. At centre back, without a debate, it will be Smalling and Lindelof, owing to Bailly and Jones' suspension. Jose explicitly mentioned that these two would get a start against Basel so there's that. At left back, I really hope Shaw gets his chance, but it'll probably be Blind again, explaining why Darmian started on Saturday.
      Midfielders: For Jose's first Champions League game with United, he will want to makea an impression, which is why he will play a 4-2-3-1 with Matic and Pogba playing the roles of holding midfielders. Matic will play the deep lying central midfielder, releasing Pogba into all kinds of space. With Mata playing in the number 10 position right in front of the holding midfielders and Pogba complementing him, we should have enough fire power down the middle, in case the crosses don't work out.
      Forwards: While our lone striker is undoubtedly Lukaku, our inverted wingers can be more intelligently discussed. While, we've seen the left wing being shared in equal between Martial and Rashford, Mkhitaryan has cemented his place on the right flank. We need pace and creativity in Europa which makes Martial the better option at left wing. Rashford's selfish runs were annoying to watch against Stoke whereas, Martial kept looking for Lukaku. So for me, Martial has to be starting the games in the big competition to reassure him of Jose's trust.

So my lineup is : De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Martial; Lukaku.

      Now let's take a look at Basel's form. Basel are without a win in their last three games and lost their lastest game, 2-1 at home. They are currently third in the Swiss League with 11 points out of a possible 21. Though these stats may barely seem intimidating, the way I see it, Basel are pumped and will be up for the game. Beating a top team like Manchester United at Old Trafford will really get their fans going. But then again, their country's best player is Granit Xhaka, so we may be in for a stroll in the park also.

      So that's it for the preview! I am really looking forward to this game as we finally have a competent team to take to Europe. None of Louis Van Gaal's squad with the Nick Powell substitution or the "playing for draws away from home" rule this time. We're in it and we're in for the big prize! Let's do this! As for the score, I'm going 3-1 United. 

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