Manchester United head into tonight’s game knowing that they will need to win on travels in Europe for the first time this season, should PSV beat bottom of the group CSKA Moscow.
Group toppers Wolfsburg will be doing everything they can to hold United to a draw which will reward them with the point they need to qualify. The Premier League club will be without Wayne Rooney who will be absent through an ankle injury he picked up in United’ 1-1 draw at Leicester on the weekend. Who’s to say it wouldn’t go in their favour as Luis van Gaal will be forced to play Anthony Martial up front who provides considerably more energetic than lifeless Rooney, who has been in lackluster form this season.
Defensive consistency has improved this season, with Chris Smalling beginning to fulfill his potential and David de Gea continuing to fill his defenders with confidence and despite being at home, I think Wolfsburg will struggle to break them down given they are not prolific themselves. The German team have won both their Champions League home games, keeping clean sheets in both and they won’t go for the win from off as they only require a point to qualify.
I can’t see United’s pacey forwards getting much space in behind the German defence, and will lack creativity in the final third against a tightknit defence. I expect PSV to win their game against CSKA, which could lead do a backwards step for Luis van Gaal’s red army, should they fail to win.
Wolfsburg 1-0 Man Utd
Already qualified Manchester City will be playing for top spot and a favourable draw in the next leg, when they play a recently revitalized Borussia Monchengladbach at the Etihad.
Sevilla host Juventus and are playing for a place in the Europa League in the new year, so the Italian champions should expect a tough test. Arguably City’s three most influential players in Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero have all been ruled out through injury, and the English team are a considerably worse side without them. Wilfried Bony has never managed to recapture his magnificent Swansea City form, and despite scoring in his last European outing, doesn’t look confident in front of goal.
The welcome return of David Silva is important and despite not delivery a display to match his high standards against Stoke at the weekend, it is no secret that City will create more chances with him in the side.
I can see Raheem Sterling stretching the German defence late on, as the team who are 5th placed in the Bundesliga will push for a win that will guarantee them a place in the Europa League. Man City has only kept two clean sheets in their last 18 games and are no doubt a better side with him in the squad, so with him unavailable City will likely concede. Juventus must lose in Seville for the sky blues to top the group, and I see them winning comfortably. City to qualify but only in second place.
Manchester City 2-1 Borussia Monchengladbach