Benfica v Manchester United preview

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Updated: September 14, 2011

The Manchester United steamroller makes it way to Portugal on Wednesday for their Champions League opener against Benfica.

Both sides enter the clash unbeaten however while Sir Alex Ferguson’s have blazed a trail of glory on their way to the top of the Premier League, Benfica’s own fine start to the Premeira Liga has been met by a familiar obstacle in the form of Porto who top the table ahead of their rivals.

Benfica, who have won three and drawn one of the four games to date, come into the clash on the back of a nervy 2-1 win over Vitoria Guimaraes, two penalties from Oscar Cardozo sealing the points.

Paraguayan striker Cardozo will be the main threat to the United backline, the 28 year old has scored 4 goals so far this season and has 8 goals in his last 7 games for club and Country and alongside former Barcelona star Javier Saviola, forms a little and large front line pairing.

Summer signings Alex Witsel, long linked with a move to the Premiership before leaving Standard Liege for Portugal in the summer, Barcelona winger Nolito and former Real Madrid defender Ezequiel Garay, fit again after an ankle injury, have slotted impressively into the Benfica team. All three should start against the English championship.

While another astute signing was the capture of former Villareal defender Joan Capdevilla, the 33 year old World cup winner will bring plenty of experience to the side.

Benfica have a couple of minor doubts heading into the game with Enzo Peréz and Ruben Amorim both picking up small knocks in training during the international break, though the latter was an unused substitute against Guimaraes.

Manchester United meanwhile have been impressive so far this season racking up 18 goals on their way to win’s over WBA, Spurs, Arsenal and Bolton and will head into the game as favourites.

Sir Alex Ferguson will again be relying on the mature performances of young star’s Phil Jones and Johnny Evans to protect David de Gea as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are missing in central defence.

While Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are also out injured however with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in such dazzling form United fans will be confident ahead of the clash.

Ferguson will perhaps have one eye on Sunday’s clash with Chelsea and that could be a factor in his thinking for the line up, a thought process that could perhaps see Michael Owen make a start with Rooney on the bench.

Last season Manchester United made a sluggish start to their Champions League campaign, drawing 0-0 at home although they recovered to make the final. This time round United have made their best ever start to a Premier League season and it will be looking to keep that momentum going.

Prediction: Both sides are built on attractive attacking football and with so much exciting talent on display expect plenty of chances not to mention goals. United to continue their winning start to the season with a narrow 3-2 win.

One to watch – Nolito: The Spanish winger failed to make the grade at the Nou Camp but has made a stunning start to life in Portugal scoring 3 goals in 4 European matches so far not to mention two in the league.

You can follow me on twitter @trevkeane

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