Manchester United will travel to Germany to face RB Leipzig at the RB Arena in the final group stage match of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening. United top the group, albeit on goal difference right now and require a point to reach the round of 16 of the competition this season. Defeats to Istanbul Basaksehir and Paris Saint-Germain have led to United leaving it late to reach the knockout stages of the competition this season. If they lose and PSG win, the UEFA Europa League could beckon once again. A win or a draw will see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into the round of 16 draw on Monday 14 December.
Leipzig will not be looking to face defeat like they did against United at Old Trafford earlier this season with United scoring five goals against the club. The German side will have seen that United are defensively imperfect at this moment in time, but United would have seen the same. The German club have not kept a clean sheet in their last five matches, conceding three goals in each of their last two matches. United though have a similar problem – keeping a clean sheet once in five matches and conceding seven goals in their last four matches. This could be a good match but United will need to prevail.
How United have faired against RB Leipzig and other German teams in the European Champions Clubs’ Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
United and Leipzig have met once in the Champions League with United winning 5-0. United have played German opposition many times in European competition. The first German team played was Borussia Dortmund in 1956 followed by FK Vorwärts Berlin in 1965 with Dortmund again in 1997 followed by FC Bayern München in 1998 and 1999 in what was a good season for United. The Red Devils have also faced Bayer 04 Leverkusen, VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg and FC Schalke 04. United have played 31 matches against German clubs, winning 15, drawing eight and losing eight. United have scored 55 goals, conceding 36 against German clubs.
United have faced Bayern München the most when playing against German clubs with eleven matches being played against the club with United winning twice, drawing five times and being defeated four times. One of the wins was in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, a 2-1 victory in Barcelona. The last German team to face United in the competition was Wolfsburg in the group stages of the competition five years ago, winning once and losing once. Leipzig have faced Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 16 in the Champions League last season, their only English opposition, winning 4-0 on aggregate; 1-0 in London and 3-0 in Leipzig.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League at the RB Arena on Tuesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea missed the 3-1 victory over West Ham United on Saturday evening with a knee injury. Hopefully he will be fit to face RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening. He started and played 90 minutes against Paris Saint-Germain last week in the Champions League, days after suffering a knee injury against Southampton, which saw hims substituted at half time with Dean Henderson replacing him and starting against the Hammers this weekend. If he is not fit, Henderson will be called upon once again in the elite European competition, hoping to have a better match than the one against Istanbul Basaksehir, which United lost 2-1 in Turkey.
Defenders: Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire
It is important that United’s defence find their feet as at the moment, it is the area that United seem to be lacking in. In their last three matches, six goals have been conceded with United winning two matches – coming from behind and losing the other, despite coming from behind the level the scoreline. A three-man defence might work against Leipzig with Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire all starting. Luke Shaw has played in a three-man defence this season, but it does not look like he will be fit to face the German side this week, which is a shame. Victor Lindelof could refresh his batteries if he is rested in Tuesday.
Midfield Four: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Alex Telles
The midfield is key to this United side winning their matches. With a three at the back formation, the fullbacks will operate in midfield, playing further forward than normal, which for Alex Telles will be find as he regularly played in this position with Porto. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his place on the right with both Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay playing in the centre of midfield. United should be able to sort things with this formation as it gives three forward players just ahead of the midfield on the attack with the fullbacks providing the width and them pushing back in defence when needed, giving five at the back.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes is the best player in this United squad this season and he has not been at the club for a year yet. He has scored ten goals and seven assists in all competitions this season. When he does not play, United seem to miss him, which shows how much he offers the club. It is important that United keep him fit and that rumours of clubs in Europe being interested in him are not true. United should be giving him a new contract based on the impact he has had at the club, ensuring that any attempt to sign him end with frustration for the club that wants him. This will be a busy week for United with Leipzig and Manchester City on the horizon.
Forwards: Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood
Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are two of the brightest talents to come out of United’s academy in a long time. With the fact that Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial could be unavailable for the visit to Germany on Tuesday evening, the home grown duo could lead the line for United with Fernandes playing just behind them in his favoured position. Both Rashford and Greenwood scored against West Ham on Saturday so will be seeking to continue to guide United onto the right road, which should be the road to consistency. This is an important match. It is quite possible that Cavani and Martial could be involved in some capacity.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson, Lee Grant; Victor Lindelof, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Odion Ighalo
In the Champions League, Solskjaer will have five substitutions, which will help this month with seven more matches to be played before the 29 December. This will be the final Champions League group stage Marchand will decide whether United will be in the round of 16 stage draw on Monday. Dean Henderson and Lee Grant could be the goalkeepers on the bench with Victor Lindelof, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Brandon Williams available in defence. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri and Nemanja Matic could be called upon with Odion Ighalo the only forward on the bench.
Written by John Walker