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Champions League decider Man United can’t afford to slip up

| 09.12.2013

Everybody seems to have an opinion on why Manchester United are struggling at the moment – and I mean everybody. Opinions range from the sensible and insightful to the dumb and downright hysterical, but one thing we can all agree upon is that they cannot afford a third home defeat in a row on Tuesday night.

Bad Premier League form can be rescued, but if United (11/10 with Coral) lose to Shakhtar Donetsk (5/2) in their Champions League fixture, it will mean they finish second in Group A and so then face one of the European giants in the round of 16.

Perhaps the Reds will have found their form again by the time the knock-out phase starts (and strengthened their squad during the January transfer window), but even if they have they will still be second favourites against the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid, not to mention Atletico Madrid and PSG.

One event that seems to have been quickly forgotten is that either side of their draws at Cardiff and Spurs and just a short time before Everton and Newcastle beat them at Old Trafford, United dismantled Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 on their own patch.

Okay, the Germans may be flattered by their lofty position in the Bundesliga (although they did beat Borussia Dortmund away last Saturday), but it was still a pretty impressive performance by Moyes’ men whichever way you look at it.

They will need to recapture that sort of form if they are to see off a decent Ukranian outfit, who need a win to be sure of qualifying and if they get it would snatch top spot from United.

We can expect a tight, tense encounter, but I think the home side will have enough to scrape through by the odd goal, although a draw (23/10) would be enough. Coral’s 21/5 a draw at half time and a United win at full time makes some appeal.

Bayern Munich (1/2) v Manchester City (5/1) is pretty much a dead rubber, with the European champions guaranteed to top Group D unless the English visitors achieve a minor miracle and beat them by three goals.

We can almost certainly rule that out, but Bayern took it easy in the home second leg of their last-16 encounter with Arsenal last season and almost paid the price and Man City have enough quality in their squad to take advantage if not afforded proper respect.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini is being realistic and has basically given up on the big win that would turn things around by announcing that he will rest some of his best players ahead of what he views, in the circumstances, as a more important Premier League clash with Arsenal at the weekend.

So with both sides perhaps taking their foot off the gas, this is a hard game to call with confidence, but it not surprise me if City came back with a draw (100/30).



Jon Freeman