We are nearing the business end of the Champions League and the fourth round of the group stage upon us with Manchester United facing a tricky trip to Turkey to face Turkish champions and current league leaders Bursaspor.
Currently in Group C the Turks have zero points, have conceded six goals and scored none, the only side in the Champions League not to have found the back of the net. So you would think United should take three points from the game easily enough, but even in the home match against them, United made hard work of Ertugrul Saglam’s side, coming away with only a one-nil win.
Sir Alex Ferguson is wary of Bursaspor, stating, “You have to respect any team that’s top of their league. Bursaspor have been playing well in the league and are in good form,” he told reporters at his pre-match press conference. ?
“We know the Turkish league is very difficult – we’ve experienced that before against Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenebahce – they’ve all been difficult games for us here and we expect another test on Tuesday.” He added.
One major absentee is Rio Ferdinand who did not travel to Turkey, and amid reports this was due to the impact the trip may have on his back, the defender replied to these reports in Twitter; “Reports that I’m not traveling to Turkey coz it will affect my back are once again wrong.”
Other absentees are Jonny Evans, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Federico Macheda, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Anderson. So a changed line up is expected from Sir Alex.
Chris Smalling will be given a starting spot next to Nemanja Vidic, while Wes Brown is expected to make only his fourth start of the season. Whether or not United go for a five-man midfield remains to be seen, though this seems to be a favoured approach away from home in Europe.
Despite the weakened squad Michael Carrick feels United can step up when it matters in the Champions League, “People might point to our away record, which is very good, but all those matches have been hard. Travelling to Turkey, for instance, presents you with a long journey and a different type of atmosphere. You are encountering players that you don’t see every week.
“It brings a different challenge to Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. It is something you have to face if you want to continue in the competition.”
Despite their terrible record in the Champions League, Bursaspor boast a 10 game unbeaten run in Turkey, while Milan Stepanov and Ali Tando?an who both returned to face Fenerbahçe at the weekend, having been out with injuries picked up at Old Trafford, should both be in the line-up to face United after Tando?an played 90 minutes on Friday, while Stepanov was an unused substitute.
If United get the victory it will more or less guarantee qualification to the next stage of the competition, lets just hope the Turkish champions do not suddenly translate their home form onto the European stage.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Probable Line Up: van der Sar; Brown, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Scholes, Park; Hernandez, Berbatov.