Preview: Manchester United aiming to reach the knockout stages with Basel victory!


Basel -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League 2017/18

St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland

Wednesday 22nd November 2017; KO 19:45 BST

Live on BT Sport 2 HD in the United Kingdom

Manchester United have travelled to Switzerland to face Basel in the penultimate group stage match of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening. United beat the Swiss side 3-0 at Old Trafford in their first group stage match, and have since gone unbeaten in the elite European competition this season. Jose Mourinho saw his side strengthened against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday evening with the return of Paul Pogba, who went straight into the starting XI, inspiring his side to victory with a Man of the Match performance, a goal and an assist, also the return to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after around seven months out of action due to a knee injury. Marcos Rojo also made his return, remaining an unused substitute during the match.

Mourinho’s United side require just one point against Basel to earn a knockout stage clash, which is something the side will be confident of doing, meaning the final group stage match, against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford will be a match whereby the manager can blood in youth and those not regularly playing this season – not to mention allowing some injured players a match to get themselves back into action. United have started the season well, despite draws to Stoke City and Liverpool and defeats to Huddersfield Town and Chelsea in the Premier League. The Champions League was a competition United wanted to get back into – seemingly getting through their group with ease, at last.

The state of the pitch at St Jakob-Park has been talked about ahead of this match, as last week in a FIFA World Cup play-off, the pitch looked terrible. A week on, it might be alright but none of the players have trained on it, seemingly waiting until Wednesday’s match before seeing what it is actually like. Mourinho, speaking about the pitch in his pre-match press conference, said:

“Honestly, I don’t know. I want to see after 20 minutes. At the moment, it looks OK. But I respect the effort in trying to make a positive pitch after it was so bad in the play-offs for the national team.”

Chris Smalling, also speaking about the pitch in the press conference, stated:

“I think it’s hard to know until the game starts tomorrow, but we saw the pitch and it’s been relaid and it looks good. Hopefully it can hold out for the full game tomorrow, and it can be an entertaining game.”

Previous Matches: Two wins, two draws and one defeat for Manchester United against Basel

Manchester United and Basel have met five times competitively in the history of both clubs. United have won twice, drawing twice and losing once. The first match was played on the 26th November 2002 at St Jacob Park with United winning 3-1; Christian Gimenez put the hosts 1-0 up in the first minute, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored a brace in two minutes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored United third of the evening. The second match was a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on the 12th March 2003 with Gimenez opening the scoring and Gary Neville getting the equaliser. It would be nearly eight years before United and Basel met again.

The third match was played at Old Trafford on the 27th September 2011; a 3-3 draw with Danny Welbeck scoring twice in a minute (16th and 17th minutes), Fabian Frei getting a goal back in the 58th minute and Alexandre Frei equalising two minutes later before completing his brace, from the penalty spot in the 76th minute. Ashley Young rescued a point for United in the 90th minute. On the 7th December 2011, United were defeated 2-1 by Basel in Switzerland with Marco Streller and Alexandre Frei scoring with Phil Jones getting a consolation goal for United in the 89th minute. United beat Basel 3-0 at Old Trafford this season with Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, and Marcus Rashford on the scoresheet.

Form: Manchester United in better form, especially in the Champions League but Basel need a win and they may aim to get just that!

Manchester United started their season in good form, scoring goals for fun, at times. Since then, Mourinho’s side have drawn twice and been defeated twice in the Premier League, unbeaten in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup. Before the international break, United were beaten, again, by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, getting back to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Newcastle United in the league at Old Trafford on Saturday, coming back from going behind in the opening 15 minutes of the match, inspired by Paul Pogba, the Man of the Match who scored and assisted in the victory. Mourinho will be wanting to keep his side undefeated in the Champions League this season, also earning a place in the knockout stages with just a point needed from this match.

Basel sit second in the Swiss Super League, winning six, drawing five and losing three of the 14 matches played so far. The season in Switzerland will go into a winter break in early December with Basel having three more league matches remaining. Raphaël Wicky’s side have done well domestically, winning all three matches played in the Swiss Cup but it is the Champions League where the Swiss side have not been as good as they could have been. Beaten 3-0 by United in the opening group stage match, then beating Benfica 5-0 and CSKA Moscow 2-0, they fell to a second defeat, losing 2-1 to the Russian side. Basel are second in the group, six points adrift of leaders United, but with the same number of points as the Russian side. A win over United is needed on Wednesday.

Team News: Three players out through injury and three formerly injured players travel to Switzerland

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that he will be without Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly for the trip to Switzerland due to injury. Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all travelled for the match with the latter already named on the bench with Mourinho pushing to get him 20-25 minutes of action. Mourinho confirmed:

“Zlatan goes on the bench tomorrow and normally he plays. He needs to play and he’s useful for us. He keeps the ball. If the team isn’t winning, his presence will be important. Instead of 15, he may play 20 or 25 minutes, but he’s not in condition to start.”

Chris Smalling will start the match and with Rojo, Victor Lindelof and Daley Blind in the travelling party could choose to play a three at the back formation which could see him test two strikers, or two creative players behind the striker. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in the squad after missing out against Newcastle United on Saturday evening with Mourinho confirming he was left out due to the number of options he had at his perusal. Mourinho confirmed:

“There is always a question about someone who is not playing or is not in the best form. There are no questions about Anthony Martial and no questions about Chris Smalling.

“There are always questions about somebody in a certain moment, a certain match and a certain period that didn’t play. The story is always the same. In some positions, when you don’t have injuries, you have lots of options in other positions. In this moment, we have Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay so I can imagine, next week, you are going to ask – why is this player not playing?

“Micki is not playing because we had lots of options for that match. I decided to play Marcus Rashford and Martial together. For many weeks, the questions was – why do they not play together? Now the question is why is Micki not playing. The answer is every simple – until the international board change the rules, I can only start with 11!”

Predicted Starting XI: Three at the back in Basel? Mourinho to let Luke Shaw in from the cold? Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan behind Romelu Lukaku?

Match Prediction: Manchester United to ensure qualification into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with Swiss victory!

Basel 1-3 Manchester United

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