Manchester United continue their Champions League exploits as they travel to the Portuguese capital Lisbon this evening to face Benfica, while looking to continue their perfect start to the group stages after two wins from as many matches.
Jose Mourinho’s men may have left something of a raw taste in the mouth after their bore draw against Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime but the hopes will be that they will play with the freedom that they have shown in the first couple of months of this season.
The argument is that it is those kind of performances that win you the Premier League, win at home and draw with your rivals on the road. That may have been true in the past but with Manchester City scoring goals by the bucket load then maybe last weekend will have to be seen as two points dropped.
Manchester United have made easy work of Basle and CSKA Moscow in their first two matches and already have a three point gap at the top of the group, what is perhaps more surprising is the fact that Benfica are yet to get off the mark and are already staring a potential exit in the face.
Also the defending Portuguese champions are not quite brushing past all that is in front of them domestically, they currently find themselves third in the table, some five points behind perennial arch rivals FC Porto while also three points behind their cross town rivals Sporting who sit second.
Last weekend saw Benfica take a hiatus from league action and turn out in the Portuguese cup. They traveled to Olhanense and made relatively difficult work of it after winning just 1-0. But at least it will provide some momentum going into tonight’s clash.
For Jose Mourinho there will be little change to his starting eleven due to injuries to the likes of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini therefore Ander Herrera will once again start in the centre of midfield. The real decision that he will have to make is to start either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial.
It seems to be something of a one-two combination between these two players as whoever starts softens up the opposing defender with the other one then taking full advantage after 75 minutes or so, last weekend it was the England international Rashford who had to make do with a seat on the bench.
Some say that it was a decision that Mourinho got wrong and that he should have gone with the youngster from the start but in fairness the less we can talk about that offering at Anfield the better, that was parking the bus 101. You just hope that they’ve found the keys this evening.
With Benfica without a point in this group and stuttering league form then United will be eyeing this fixture as one that is certainly winnable. The home fans will no doubt make this something of a cauldron to play in but it is something that the traveling outfit will deal with some ease. I’ll mark this one down as an away win.