Manchester United Out to Avoid Repeating History vs. Basel in Champions League

1:39 | Soccer
English Premier League: Will Lukaku, Matic Make the Difference for Manchester United?
Monday September 11th, 2017

On Tuesday evening Manchester United mark their return to the Champions League by welcoming old foes FC Basel back to Old Trafford.

Basel famously knocked the Red Devils out of the 2011-12 Champions League at the group stage, but José Mourinho's men are a different kind of animal now and are currently one of Europe's best sides in terms of form.

Both sides will want a win to kick-start their European campaigns, and here's everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Manchester:

Form 

GEOFF CADDICK/GettyImages

United sit unbeaten at the top of the Premier League and having scored twelve goals while conceding just two in their opening four games, the three-time European Cup winners will be expected to start off this season's campaign with a win.

Mourinho's side have not had the toughest start to the season, but they earned a respectable 2-0 win at home to Leicester City and go into Tuesday's clash led by Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in as many league games this season.

Basel arrive in Manchester in underwhelming form - no win in three games and a recent defeat to bottom of the table Lausanne-Sport means that last season's Swiss Super League champions may be in for a tough opening fixture.

However, former Norwich City striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel has proven to be an astute signing after scoring in six out of a possible seven Swiss Super League games.

Classic Encounter

Image by Freddie Carty

United's last clash with Basel in December 2011 ended in a humiliating 2-1 defeat and as a result Fergie's boys failed to advance past the Champions League group stage for only the third time in 17 years.

The Red Devils had relied on a last minute equaliser from Ashley Young to scrape a point against their opponents earlier in the group stage and entered their final Group C game knowing that a draw would see them through.

However, questionable defending allowed Basel striker Marco Streller to sweep in and put his side ahead after just nine minutes and Wayne Rooney then squandered a chance good chance to level in the 29th minute.

Basel were forced to defend for much of the game, but United could not break through their defence, and Alexander Frei then headed in to double Basel's advantage in the 84th minute. A late goal from Phil Jones could not salvage the tie for Sir Alex Ferguson's men, and they finished the group stage in third place with just nine points from six games.

Key Battle

Romelu Lukaku vs Marek Suchý & Manuel Akanji

Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

While Mourinho's side have shown that they have many players capable of scoring goals with six different players hitting the net in four Premier League games so far this season, striker Romelu Lukaku's form means that he can be the difference between a tight game and a thrashing.

The Belgian has four goals in the league alongside his strike in the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid and, although he was guilty of missing a couple of match-winning chances against Stoke City, he remains one of the hottest strikers in Europe at the moment.

Lukaku will most likely come up against Basel skipper Marek Suchý and Manuel Akanji at the heart of the Swiss side's defence, a partnership with 366 league appearances between them and a key reason as to why their team only conceded 35 goals in 36 games last season.

Lukaku's ability to hold up the ball and bring teammates into play makes him more than just a goalscorer, and so unless the Basel centre-backs can keep him quiet, the former Everton frontman will be expected to hit the headlines on Tuesday once again.

Team News

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Mourinho will be forced into changes for the visit of Basel, with centre-backs Phil Jones and Eric Bailly both suspended, and the former Chelsea boss confirmed after the 2-2 draw at Stoke that Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling will be their replacements.

Daley Blind could also feature in defence, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata are expected to start after being benched for the game at the Bet365 Stadium.

Basel do not have any injuries or suspensions in the lead up to Tuesday evening's clash and so could name an unchanged side to the team that faced Lausanne-Sport on Saturday.

Potential Manchester United Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku.

Potential FC Basel Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Lang, Suchy, Akanji, Riveros; Xhaka, Die; Steffen, Zuffi, Bua; van Wolfswinkel.

Prediction

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United's strength-in-depth means that even with a few changes they should have too much quality for a Basel side who have not had the best of starts to the season.

A lack of game time in defence could prove a weakness, but the Red Devils will be fully expected to out-score their Swiss opponents.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Basel

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