Manchester United vs. FC Basel: Match Preview

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By Mark Young

Introduction

Swiss club FC Basel are the visitors at Old Trafford on Tuesday night as Manchester United look to win their first game of this season’s European challenge after a draw in the first match.

Man United drew one all away at Benfica on match day one after a magnificent Ryan Giggs solo goal cancelled out an Oscar Cardozo strike. Both goals were scored in the first half. Since then United beat Chelsea 3-1 at Old Trafford and dropped their first domestic points off the season away at The Britannia Stadium against Stoke City.

Sir Alex Ferguson has a number of fitness worries going into Tuesday’s clash with a number of first team player’s out injured especially in the striking department. Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney have been ruled out due to injury so Ferguson will be deciding between Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov and the newly fit again Danny Welbeck. Nemanja Vidic is still out as is midfielder Tom Cleverley and Rafael da Silva. They are selection headaches of a different kind for Ferguson who started the season with almost everyone available. One big plus for him is that Darren Fletcher is ready and raring to go in the centre of midfield. Ryan Giggs will probably play along with Ji Sung Park. Chris Smalling didn’t play at Stoke and Jonny Evans pulled out during the warm up and neither trained earlier in the week so it is expected that Phil Jones and Rio Ferdinand will line up in central defence. It is widely expected that Anders Lindegaard will start in goal for United but it may be a good chance to give David De Gea his Champions League debut for the club in what should be a routine three points.

Basel lead the group after an opening day victory against the Romanian club Otelul Galati. Before the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Thun in the Swiss league, Basel were in good form winning their previous three games in a row scoring twelve goals and conceding only one. They had a slow start to the season only winning one of their opening six league games but form has picked up recently but United should really take three points against their opponents on Tuesday night. Marco Streller will be a threat as he came off the bench to score a 73rd minute header at the weekend only to be cancelled out ten minutes later. He is one of the three big danger men for Basel. The other two are the experienced front man Alexander Frei and the exciting Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, but the latter is unavailable due to suspension. Benjamin Huggel was sent off against Galati and will also miss the trip to Old Trafford.

Opposition View

Here, at Sretford End Arising we spoke to FC Basel Forum and asked their thoughts on the upcoming game, Thorsten Fink and exciting prospect Xherdan Shaqiri:

Tuesday’s Game

Tuesday will be the first “pressure is off” game of the season; I would gladly take a draw. I have watched all of United’s Premier League games so far this season and Sir Alex’s team have been very impressive. Is there a weakness in the United team? Knowing the manager he is unlikely to field the strongest team. Maybe there is a small chance for Basel to get something from the game, but realistically United should win by three clear goals. Perhaps the only weakness is United are expected to win therefore take Basel lightly and underestimate them. Sir Alex Fergusson is far to savvy for that, but will his team believe him?

Fink is likely select the following team in a 4-4-2 formation: Sommer; Abraham, Dragovic; Steinhöfer, Park; Fabian Frei, Cabral; Zoua, Chipperfield; Alexander Frei, Streller. We’re missing important players like Stocker, Yapi, Huggel and Shaqiri (the latter two are both banned). The players missing normally form our starting midfield. Huggel has started the season slowly but his physical presence will be missed. Usually we try to win through retaining possession and using the whole width of the field, waiting for a mistake to exploit. While this tactic might work against weaker teams I don’t see how it will against Manchester United.

Tuesday’s encounter will be a great learning experience for our young team.

2011-12 Season

Well, the start to Basel’s season has been poor. We suffered defeat to our rival FC Zurich after a twenty game unbeaten run against them. Thankfully, Basel’s form has steadily improved over the last three weeks. Stocker and Yapi are two crucial players for Basel, but unfortunately the pair sustained serious injuries making them unavailable for approximately five months. Nevertheless, the main problem has been poor defending especially the defensive midfielders.

Champions League Expectations

Third place is up for grabs. A positive result against Benfica at St. Jakobs-Park may open a slim opportunity for second place, but realistically, third is fine. It would be incredible if we reach the next round.

Thorsten Fink

Overall, Fink has made a good impression. At only 43 he has made some minor mistakes, but he’s still learning. Three trophies in 2 years speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Before Christian Gross was sacked a number of fans wished for a different, more offensive playing style. That’s what Fink has brought back to Basel. He changed the formation; after a long time we reverted to two forwards and the four wingers (defence and attacking) play a more important role in our system. Our football has been a joy to watch and I hope it stays that way, however the permanent problems in our defensive department requires addressing. I find pleasing the younger players are allowed the chance to shine.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Wonderkid. Shaqiri is a left footed right winger that enjoys cutting inside into central areas. Long range shooting is a strength evident by the goal scored against England. His decision making is occasionally poor and he can be selfish, but with his dribbling skills, acceleration and shooting ability he possesses the talent to turn a match by himself. Shaqiri may at times appear arrogant, but considering the hype surrounding him he has remained fairly grounded for a 19 year old future superstar.

Two Key Battles

Dimitar Berbatov Vs. David Abraham

The Bulgarian will get another chance after an indifferent performance at Stoke at the weekend and will once again be looking to prove his critics wrong. Abraham has been an ever present in defence for Basel but Berbatov will fancy his chances to get a European goal or two.

Phil Jones Vs. Marco Streller

The young centre back was at fault when the tall Peter Crouch scored Stoke’s equaliser on Saturday. He was caught ball watching as Crouch headed home. It is one of the only mistakes he has made in his short United career but he faces someone of a similar stature to Crouch in Streller and will want to bounce back with a dominating performance.

Summary

United should make light work of Basel on Tuesday and anything less than three points will be classed as not good enough despite the injury problems. Whoever starts up front out of Berbatov, Owen and Welbeck should expect to get on the scoresheet. With the hardest game on paper away at Benfica down, qualification is the next goal and it should start on Tuesday with three points.

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