Champions League – Tuesday Preview
With a tricky finale coming up against a vastly experienced Bayern Munich, Manchester City will want to wrap up qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League as quickly as possible and that means winning in Naples this week.
It certainly won’t be easy for Roberto Mancini’s side in the San Paolo, however, as Napoli gave them plenty of problems at the Etihad Stadium when only a late equaliser from full-back Aleksander Kolarov rescued a point for the Sky Blues. Napoli have only won one of their last five games in all competitions but haven’t lost in Europe in front of their own fans since returning from exile in 2008. They’ve also scored in all four games so far and should also be at full strength for the City game, with their front three of Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi again likely to ask plenty of questions of the visitors’ defence.
But the Premier League leaders look to be in the mood to sweep all before them at the moment and, after nine straight wins, won’t be short of confidence in Italy. David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry should all return to the starting line-up having been rested against Newcastle at the weekend and City can grab the win they need to ensure qualification at 10/11. An away win by exactly one goal is 13/5.
There are some who would argue that Manchester United aren’t the force they were 12 months ago. Certainly, there are still issues in defence and midfield though Saturday’s fifth consecutive clean sheet at Swansea suggests that previous prophecies of doom and gloom were a little premature. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have also developed a habit down the years of being able to step up a gear when required in the Champions League and can go a long way to guaranteeing their campaign is extended into the New Year by beating old adversaries Benfica at Old Trafford at 1/2.
United have won all five matches since their mauling by arch-rivals City a month ago but have only scored eight goals, hinting at a more cautious approach by the Red Devils. Benfica held them to a draw in the Stadium Of Light on matchday one and have already won in Basle and Galati in the competition so certainly won’t be arriving at Old Trafford with any trepidation. However, this is likely to be a vastly more experienced United side to the one that took the field in Portugal and the hosts should take all three points.
Nani once had a trial with Benfica but wasn’t offered a contract. He is due a goal for United and would like nothing better than to end his barren spell against the Portuguese champions. The 25-year-old winger is 9/5 to be an anytime goalscorer.