Wayne Rooney of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Man Utd face Benfica on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 in the UEFA Champions League. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Manchester United are dealing with a variety of injury and suspension issues, but can clinch a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with a draw against Benfica on Tuesday
Manchester United and Benfica sit first and second in UEFA Champions League Group C, heavy favorites to advance to the next round. With a draw, both teams would clinch their place in the knockout stages. Man United has the larger goal differential, so they would feel more or less locked into first place with a victory on Tuesday night. It's an important fixture, but with both teams virtually into the next round and dealing with injuries, it's tough to predict who's going to play on Tuesday.
Both teams also have to deal with tough upcoming fixtures in their domestic leagues. Manchester United has a tricky match against Newcastle this weekend, while Benfica has an absolutely massive match against Sporting Lisbon. Sporting has the benefit of being off from Europa League this week, so they'll be completely rested for the match.
In their previous meeting, Ryan Giggs rescued a point for United at Estadio da Luz with a great equalizing goal in a 1-1 draw. United were thoroughly outplayed in that game, with Giggs' goal being just one of two shots on target. A match between Benfica and Man United at Old Trafford should be a different story, but there's no reason to believe that the visitors can't snatch a point. They're in wonderful form at the moment, while United have scraped by in the league with a couple of unimpressive 1-0 wins.
Between mediocre form and injuries, Ferguson's biggest selections will come in the center of midfield. Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher will all be available for selection, while both Park Ji-Sung and Wayne Rooney have played in the midfield in a pinch. Anderson and Tom Cleverley are still unavailable due to injuries.
The same is the case for Chris Smalling and Rafael da Silva, while Nemanja Vidic is suspended. Phil Jones should start at right back, while Johnny Evans is likely to take over in the center of defense. Ferguson could opt to shake things up a bit and play Fabio da Silva as a right back if he feels there's a legitimate tactical reason to do so.
Benfica are also dealing with injuries, but have a mostly clean bill of health with a number of their key players fit after being rested at the weekend. Javier Saviola, Nolito, Bruno Cesar and Luis Martins were among the players who sat on the bench at the weekend. Oscar Cardozo, Javi Garcia, Maxi Pereira and Axel Witsel all went 90 minutes.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, November 22, 2:45 pm ET
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Television: FOX Soccer Channel (USA), Sportsnet Regionals (Canada), Sky Sports 4 (UK)
We'll have live coverage of Man United-Benfica and all of the other Champions League matches in our 2011 UEFA Champions League Tuesday, Matchday 5 StoryStream. For more on the entire world of football, head over to SB Nation Soccer.