Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Match preview: FC Basel v United

Despite an exemplary record in Group A, the Reds require a solitary point from the final two games to seal qualification to the knockouts.

The Reds have won four out of four in Europe so far this season, including a 3-0 win over Wednesday's opponents on Matchday One (with goals from Marouane Fellaini and tournament debutants Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku). 

Basel's fate, however, is still in the balance as they sit second with six points from four games, level on points with third-placed CSKA Moscow in a tight tussle for the other last 16 place - having lost 2-1 at home to the Russians last time out. 

The Russian side host a Benfica side who remain without a win, a point and even a goal, in the other game and will end the night in a strong position to qualify should they and the Reds both win. 

Raphael Wicky's side, Swiss champions for a remarkable eight successive seasons, lie second in the Super League and head into this one off the back of a dominant 5-1 over struggling Sion.

Basel are a familiar foe in European competition, with the Reds having endured mixed fortunes against them in recent years.
The last time we made the visit to St Jakob Park was in 2011, which ended in a 2-1 defeat for injury-hit United, who were demoted to the Europa League at the expense of the hosts.

Four of the eleven who started that ill-fated match are still at United, with three of them - David de Gea, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young - all set to feature this time around.

Michael Carrick remains sidelined along with centre-back pairing Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, both of whom have a chance of a return in the weekend's game with Brighton.

Ibrahimovic will be on the bench again and Marcos Rojo - an unused substitute against Newcastle - is in contention to start. 

Basel will be without midfielder Taulant Xhaka (brother of Arsenal's Granit), with Omar Gaber, Germano Vailati and Ricky van Wolfswinkel also sidelined. 

Jose spoke about Basel's pitch, which has been the subject of some concern, and said: "I want to see after 20 minutes what it is doing, but at the moment it looks OK. "I respect the effort into trying to make a positive pitch after it was so bad during the qualification play-offs for the national team.
"Zlatan goes on the bench tomorrow, and normally he plays. He needs to play and he is useful for us. He can keep the ball and if the team is not winning, he is a good presence for us. 
"Against Newcastle he played 15 minutes, perhaps now 20 or 25, I don't know, but he is not in a position to start." 

Form guide: Basel W W D L D W United L W W W L W 
Match odds: Basel 16/5  Draw 23/10 United 12/3
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)



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