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Monday, March 14, 2011

Champions League Preview: Manchester United vs. Olympique Marseille

Hey everyone! Great to be back out here after a space of around two weeks. Must confess that I've got a college exam tomorrow, but just felt like writing, you know? So, here I am...

Like every other Manchester United fan, the 2-0 victory over Arsenal on Saturday provided great relief to me, given the way we lost 2 consecutive away games at Chelsea & Liverpool. More striking was the manner we beat the Gunners - with a team of 7 conventional defenders in the starting line-up! Good news also in the event of Luis Antonio Valencia making his first appearance since injuring his right ankle back in September. And then, a mouth-watering FA Cup semi-final clash versus Man City at Wembley awaits us in mid-April!

Now onto the game on hand. Tomorrow, Manchester United play French side Marseille in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 at Old Trafford. The first leg, as you will possibly know, ended in a dull 0-0 draw, with neither side able to find the back of the net. United especially were guilty of not making most of their chances. Tomorrow's game stands as an opportunity to make amends & advance to the last eight of the European competition.

On the injury front, United have quite a no. of players missing. Ferdinand & Jonny Evans are out, which means that the young (and brilliant, of course) Chris Smalling will again partner skipper Nemanja Vidic in the heart of the defence. Given Sir Alex's reservations about playing Rafael in crucial European encounters, I think John O'shea will take his place at right-back. Given the fact that Fletcher & Carrick both are injured & will not return till the weekend, Ferguson will probably play a 4-4-2 formation despite his preference for the 4-5-1 in Europe. Scholes & Gibson will man the central midfield, with Giggs & Valencia taking up the flanks. Manchester Evening News reported that Nani may play some part in tomorrow's game, however it is unlikely that he will start since Sir Alex won't risk rushing him back & aggravating his injury. Berbatov & Rooney will be paired upfront, with Rooney playing that free-roaming role he executed to such good effect against Arsenal. I expect Michael Owen to make an appearance from the bench - it's been sometime that he has spent time on the pitch.

Marseille are undoubtedly stronger than they were in Marseille, with two of their main offensive players back in the form of Mathieu Valbuena (see pic) & Andre-Pierre Gignac. Gabriel Heinze, for whom it will be an emotional return to one of his former clubs, will play in central defence rather than as a full-back coz of his obvious lack of pace against speedy wingers. It will be interesting to see how the Old Trafford faithful welcome him back, given the manner he left the club back in 2007.

The Red Devils need to win at all costs to go through, as a draw won't do. As Sir Alex Ferguson rightly put it - “The name of the game is to win and I’d be quite happy if it’s 4-3 or 1-0. We defended well in Marseille and that will be the key again. That’s going to be the main element in all of the big games now.

My Starting XI: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Smalling, O'shea, Giggs, Scholes, Gibson, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov.

Scoreline predictions??? I'm going for a comfortable 2-0 win for United - perhaps Berbatov ending his barren run in Europe with a brace?

Tell me your pre-game thoughts by leaving your comments below or drop me a line on Twitter @AbhinavCJ & I'll get back to you right away!

In case you want to read the best football insight (including mine!), you can check out the excellent football blog 'BigFourZa' - the one-stop for all die-hard football fans! If you want to read my columns out there, you can click here.

Red Devils Reign, United Again!

That's all Folks!


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  1. Well written.
    News…according to reports VIDIC MIGHT BE OUT OF THE MARSILLE TIE. That is sad. Although, I think Sir Alex will get Vidic ready for the game. It is a crucial game and we need him and I’m sure SAF realises that. Again, if you consider Smalling and Brown, they can do a job as well. But I don’t think Brown will play. If at all Vidic doesn’t start, I expect John O’Shea to partner Smalling in the center of defense. Also, we must get our formation right. ALSO IN YOUR formation, I think Hernandez should start because he deserves to. According to me, this is United’s best formation:

  2. Hey Kratik,

    on your blog you wrote that Rooney should play in central midfield. my point is rather similar - i too want him to play that FREE ROAMING role off the striker, coz of his industrious style.

    And I think Vidic will play tonight, even after picking up a knock in training. Sir Alex himself said that in a press comference.