Manchester United v Benfica
Tuesday October 31 19:45
Live on BT Sport 3
United aren't pretty but they're effective
Old habits die hard. Jose Mourinho's United started the season playing flamboyant attacking football but have reverted to type in recent weeks: too many men behind the ball, too rigid, too negative.
There was no better example of all that than the fortuitous 1-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday. Even luckier was their 1-0 win over Benfica a couple of weeks ago that came from a horrible howler from young keeper Mile Svilar.
Still, what those two wins do show is the strength in depth they possess. Marcus Rashford scored in Lisbon after coming off the bench, as did Anthony Martial against Spurs. Last Tuesday it was bit-part player Jesse Lingard scoring both goals against Swansea in the League Cup.
With qualification to the Last 16 almost secured, there could be a few changes here. There is after all a trip to Chelsea coming up next Sunday.
A little too much on Jonas' plate
Three matches, three losses. A poor show from the side who were second-favourites to win this Group.
As mentioned last time out, they're feeling the losses of the star men who departed in the summer and too often it's all left to the fragile body of 33 year-old Jonas to do it all. The Brazilian is doing his best, scoring two goals in a 3-1 win over Desportivo Aves last weekend and scoring the sole goal in a 1-0 win over Feirense on Friday night.
Skipper Luisao is suspended after a late second booking in the match in Lisbon. Andreas Samaris returns from a suspension of his own to occupy the all-important midfield holding role.
'Mour' of the same?
Odds of 1.35 aren't particularly attractive, even for the biggest of hitters. In true Mourinho style, he's got his defence doing all the right things and the somewhat unlikely star of the show- in addition to the ever-brilliant David de Gea- has been the low-key Phil Jones. Not bad going for a player who certainly wouldn't have expected to have started 11 matches this season (including two for England) after years of being a bit-part player at Old Trafford.
The bottom line is United have been excellent in defence, keeping clean sheets in 11 of their 15 matches so far this season in all competitions.
I wouldn't completely rule out 0-0 here, such is Mourinho's pragmatic approach to football, but a low-scoring win similar to the Spurs one and the game in Lisbon, is the most likely outcome here. A home win to nil at evens is probably the safest bet at a decent price you'll find in this match.
Four out of United's last five matches have had under 2.5 goals, a good indication of the shift from attacking intent to result-at-all-costs in recent weeks. It's a similar story for Benfica, also with four 'unders' games from their past five.
This is even more likely if Jonas is again rested for this one. He seems to be permanently carrying a knock and if Rui Vitoria decides the league is the main priority, Benfica could find themselves without their star man in the line-up again. Less than three goals is a very fair 2.06.
Martial out to make a point
It's been a pretty miserable last 16 months or so for Anthony Martial. First he was forced to give up the Number 9 shirt when Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived last summer, then he started to be left out of the side entirely with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, continued progress of Marcus Rashford and good early season form of Henrik Mikhtaryan.
To be fair to him, he's made the most of the chances he's had. He's often scored when coming off the bench and played well when he's been given a rare start. He has six goals already this season, including of course the winner against Spurs on Saturday.
There's a good chance he might be named in the starting line-up after that priceless winner and it may even be upfront if Mourinho decides Romelu Lukaku could do with a rest. He's 6/4 to score anytime.
Lingard is another who might just help himself to a goal here at 13/5. Jonas is 11/4 but wait for the line-ups before taking it if you fancy a bet on him because there's no guarantee he'll start.
1pt Back Manchester United to win to nil @ 2.0 on Betfair Sportsbook
1pt Back Anthony Martial to score @ 6/4 on Betfair Sportsbook