Bayer 04 Leverkusen — Manchester United
Date: Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Venue: Bay Arena
Having endured a frustrating 2-2 draw against Cardiff City on the weekend, Manchester United will travel to Germany this week to take on a Bayer Leverkusen side that continues to fly under the radar this season. The Germans were beaten relatively comfortably when they journeyed to Old Trafford earlier this year, but in front of their home fans and desperate for qualification through to the knockout rounds of the competition, it might be a different story indeed this time around.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Star winger Sidney Sam will miss this fixture for the home team after sustaining an injury against Hertha BSC on the weekend, with Australian Robbie Kruse a chance to replace Sam on the wing. Roberto Hilbert (knee) and midfielder Stefan Reinartz (heel) are also both unavailable.
David Moyes will be eagerly sweating on the fitness of Robin van Persie (groin), Phil Jones (groin) and Nemanja Vidic (concussion) as he looks to name a strong team here. Marouane Fellaini is unavailable through suspension after picking up a red card against Real Sociedad, while Rafael da Silva may take part as a possible late inclusion for the Red Devils. Michael Carrick and Shinji Kagawa remain long-term absentees.
It’s hard to see exactly what lineup the Germans will put together here but it will no doubt be in the 4-3-3 formation that they’ve used all season. Sam’s departure should see Kruse picked on the right-wing (as mentioned above) with veteran Simon Rolfes most likely keeping his spot from the weekend in the middle of the field.
4-3-3: Leno; Boenisch, Toprak, Sphaic, Donati; Castro, Rolfes, Bender; Son, Kiessling, Kruse.
Carrick’s absence and Fellaini’s suspension could open up a berth in central midfield for Anderson here alongside Tom Cleverley, should United persist with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Moyes may be tempted to experiment with a 4-3-3 (which is something several United fans would love to see) but this is not the game to be conducting such an experiment. Van Persie, in my opinion, will be left out of the starting lineup here to ensure that he is at peak fitness for the Red Devils’ big Premier League fixture on the weekend.
4-2-3-1: De Gea; Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling; Cleverley, Anderson; Young, Rooney, Nani; Hernandez
United come into this fixture under plenty of pressure to perform and seemingly in somewhat of a “crisis” though it must be noted that the Red Devils have not lost their last 10 games in all competitions. However, that could well be tested here against a Leverkusen team that continues to impress in the Bundesliga and are undefeated in their last 13 home games.
Since their opening round clash in the Champions League, United have scored two goals and conceded one while Leverkusen have scored six and conceded one.
Players to Watch
Bayer 04 Leverkusen — Heung-Min Son
With Sam out and Rafael no certain starter, look for Leverkusen to attack United’s right-hand side through Heung-Min Son a great deal. Son is yet to score in the Champions League this year but leads the team in goal-scoring chances created, despite not playing the full 90 minutes in any of Leverkusen’s fixtures. Chris Smalling will certainly have his hands full defending the 21-year-old.
Manchester United — Wayne Rooney
Perhaps lucky to get through the 90 minutes against Cardiff, Rooney finished with a goal and assist, and stands to be United’s key man again during the week. Rooney leads the team in goals scored, chances created and Total Performance Score in the Champions League this year, with his nine successful take-ons from 14 attempts suggesting that he will be again be looking to cause havoc in his direct running and swift attacking.
United will no doubt be keeping one eye on the weekend ahead—which could influence their style of play here—but it’s hard to see them getting beaten in this one, particularly with Sam out. Leverkusen’s defence has been sound this season, but United have become the masters of winning close, tight games thanks to one moment of brilliance, and I think the same will happen here. One free-kick to Wayne Rooney, followed by plenty of defence is how I see this one panning out.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0-1 Manchester UnitedPublished 27 Nov 2013, 01:10 IST