UEFA Champions League: Analysing Manchester United's Opponents in Group C
The Champions League draw has concluded in Monaco, with legends such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Ruud Gullit and Lothar Matthaus selecting the fates of each club. Group C in this year's Champions League contains Manchester United, S.L. Benfica, FC Basel and Otelul Galati.
The Portuguese club—based at the Estadio da Luz (or the Stadium of Light)—is a team capable of giving the Red Devils a run for their money, and will compete for the top spot.
Amongst Benfica's ranks are Oscar Cardozo (the Paraguayan forward who missed the trip to this year's Copa America), seasoned center back Luisao, midfield maestro Pablo Aimar, the young Belgian star Axel Witsel and former Villarreal left back and World Cup winner Joan Capdevila.
Manchester United will never forget the way in which they were dumped out of the Champions League courtesy a 2-1 defeat to Benfica in November 2005. They did, however, avenge their loss by beating the Super Eagles 3-1 at Old Trafford in 2006, condemning them to the Europa League.
It would be widely expected that the Red Devils pick up at least four points (a win and a draw), or go for the jugular by claiming all six.
Manchester United's next opponent is FC Basel. The Swiss team may not be a European powerhouse, but don't let that fool you. Their roster contains two stand-out performers from this year's Euro U-21 tournament—namely their goalkeeper Yann Sommer and the outrageously-talented Xherdan Shaqiri.
England fans will remember Shaqiri's left-footed scorcher against the Three Lions in a Euro 2012 qualifying match at Wembley, where he announced his presence to the footballing world.
Manchester United should again be looking to get a full six points from the two encounters with FC Basel, but I predict the Rotblau will score at least one goal—maybe two—against the United side, with Shaqiri getting his name on the score sheet.
Finally there is Otelul Galati from Romania, an unknown force within European competition. With all due respect to them—and to Manchester United—this should be six points to the Red Devils and two clean sheets as well. They may have three Romanian Internationals on their team, but United should comfortably outclass them in both ties.
Overall, Manchester United should comfortably finish first in this group, with at least four or five clean sheets to their credit, and secure a place in the Champions League Round of 16.
This year's final is in the Allianz Arena, making it a very emotional affair for the club, as the tragic air disaster which claimed the lives of many of the Busby babes occurred in Munich. Here's to hoping that their souls rest in peace, and Manchester United add another Champions League trophy to their cabinet.
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