Following their incredible elimination at the group stage of last year’s edition, Manchester United kick off what they hope will be a far more successful 2012/13 Champions League campaign with a home match against Turkey’s Galatasaray on Wednesday (7.45pm, BST).
While their local rivals Manchester City were drawn in an exceedingly difficult group, the draw was relatively kind to the red half of Manchester.
United were grouped with Wednesday’s opponents, Cluj of Romania and Portugal’s Braga, and barring any major mishaps, should comfortably progress to the knockout stages, as best odds of 1/25 with Bet365 indicate. Indeed they are best-priced at 10/1 in the Champions League Betting to win the whole competition.
United have recovered from their opening day defeat to Everton to record three consecutive victories in domestic action, the most recent of which was a 4-0 demolition of Wigan at Old Trafford this past weekend.
Sir Alex Ferguson allowed himself the luxury of resting a few players who had picked up knocks or travelled long distances during the previous week’s international fixtures, with Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia among the substitutes. All three are likely to start on Wednesday.
Van Persie was given a 20 minute run-out against Wigan and looked sharp, as he has since moving to the club from Arsenal this summer. He has scored five goals in his last four starts for club and country and is deserving of his branding as favourite to open the scoring on Wednesday.
Key to him doing so will be the performance of Valencia. The Ecuadorian winger provided 13 assists in the Premier League last season and already has one to his name in this campaign: a cross for Van Persie’s first in the 3-2 win over Southampton. His direct runs at opposition full-backs and pinpoint crossing ability put him up there with the finest in his position.
The man tasked with dealing with Valencia’s threat on Wednesday is most likely to be Hakan Balta, providing he recovers from the slight knock he picked up in Galatasaray’s 4-0 win over Antalyaspor at the weekend. Primarily an offensive full-back, he will have to be especially aware of his defensive duties on Wednesday, which is likely to somewhat blunt his attacking intentions.
Galatasaray tend to rely on the width provided by Balta and fellow full-back Emmanuel Eboue, familiar to English supporters from his time at Arsenal. Their coach, Fatih Terim, prefers a 4-4-2 system, but with wide midfielders who tend to move inside, creating space for the full-backs to bomb forward.
At their best, the reigning Turkish champions are forceful and thrilling to watch, as 12 goals in the opening four matches of their title defence attests. Two of their goals in a recent 3-2 win over Bursaspor and three in the win over Antalyaspor came as a result of simply driving straight through the middle of the opposition defence. They also tend to score regularly from crosses and set-pieces.
With this assertive approach comes a tendency to be outnumbered in midfield on the counter attack. Galatasaray twice conceded from runs into the inside right channel in a 3-3 draw away to Besiktas. They could easily have given up at least one penalty against Kasimpasa after Eboue made a couple of clumsy challenges when racing back after being caught out of position.
With pace out wide, plus the ever active Kagawa moving intelligently between the lines, United could have a field day against a team set up in this manner. With this in mind, Terim could well decide to deploy a 4-1-4-1 formation at Old Trafford, providing additional midfield cover for when his full-backs look to get forward. Doing so would not, however, solve a second defensive weakness: set-pieces.
Of the six goals Galatasaray have conceded so far this season, four of them have come from set-piece deliveries into the penalty area. United scored 18 goals from dead-ball situations in the Premier League last season and have already managed a further three from the same source in the current campaign, suggesting they are well equipped to take advantage of this deficiency.
Man Utd v Galatasaray Betting Tips Verdict
Although Terim has talked a good game in his pre-match press conferences, the truth is that United have to be the favourites for this match. Even if the experienced coach elects for a defensive approach at the outset, one goal for United would leave his team chasing the match and open things up for the home side to take advantage on the break.