Manchester United can guarantee a place in the least 16 of the Champions League with a win against Braga tonight, having picked up maximum points so far in the group stage. Braga are sitting in third with three points, in what look likes a 3-way scrap for the second qualifying place, so they could prove dangerous opposition for Ferguson’s men.
Braga boast an impressive record against English opposition in Portugal having not conceded a goal against Arsenal, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Birmingham in the last 5 years. Although with United’s current attacking form this won’t be a statistic that particularly worries Fergie, but he will know his side will have to be at their best to get a result.
Manchester United will be without a host of Midfielders for this crucial game, including Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Shinji Kagawa who have not travelled with the squad. However United’s team will be boosted by the return of Chris Smalling who is set to make his first appearance of the season, after suffering a broken metatarsal. Braga look at full strength with no new injury concerns, and will be delighted to welcome back Dougloa who returned to action last weekend.
The only previous meeting between these two teams was the recent encounter, when United recovered from 0-2 to win 3-2. It is by no means a must win game for Manchester United but Ferguson will be desperate for a win to guarantee that top spot, and an easier ride in the latter stages of the competition. I expect him to rest a few of his key players like Van Persie and Rooney, but will most certainly give them an appearance if needed. I think it will be a great game of football with both teams looking for the win, and the forwards getting the better of the opposing defenders.
Prediction: Braga 1:3 Manchester United