Following a relatively comfortable domestic victory on Saturday, Manchester United kick off their Champions League campaign with the visit of Bayer Leverkusen to Old Trafford on Tuesday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
United and Leverkusen are two of the four teams who make up Group A, with Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Spain’s Real Sociedad completing the line-up. It is one of the toughest groups and United will be wary of the need to get off to a positive start.
David Moyes will lead a side out in the Champions League proper for the first time on Tuesday, having faltered in the final qualifying round in his only attempt with Everton. In the Europa League, he was unable to take Everton further than the round of 16 and will know that more is expected of him at Old Trafford.
Man Utd come into the match on the back of a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace on Saturday. They dominated the ball, took five times as many shots as their opponents and did not concede a single shot on target, yet there was still something quite laboured about the manner of their victory.
United took the lead in first half stoppage time following the incorrect award of a penalty for a foul that occurred outside the area and didn’t add to that lead until the 81st minute, despite Palace playing the entire second half with 10 men. The lack of creativity that saw them fail to score in the draw with Chelsea and the defeat to Liverpool was again apparent.
Deadline day signing Marouane Fellaini made his debut as a second half substitute, but while the Belgian international will add more drive from the centre of the pitch, he is not the creative force United coveted all summer. Having failed in bids to sign Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera, this is the area in which they look weakest.
Moyes had to do without Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Rafael and Shinji Kagawa on Saturday due to various ailments and it is uncertain how many of them will be available for selection on Tuesday. With local rivals Manchester City awaiting next weekend, Moyes will be loathe to risk the fitness of any of them he has in mind to take part in that fixture.
There will be a face familiar to Moyes in the away dugout on Tuesday as former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia makes his Champions League coaching debut after leading Bayer Leverkusen to a third place finish in last season’s Bundesliga.
Hyypia was initially appointed as caretaker alongside youth team coach Sascha Lewandowski in the latter part of the 2011/12 season, but the pair impressed sufficiently to be kept on full time and repaid that trust with a third place finish, 26 points shy of champions Bayern Munich but 10 clear of Schalke in fourth.
Leverkusen played a quick, counter-attacking game last season, averaging less than 50% possession yet scoring more goals (65) than all but Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. They were relatively solid defensively, achieving the second best record in the league at an average of 1.15 goals conceded per match.
Much of Leverkusen’s play goes through central striker Stefan Kiessling, the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 25 goals in 34 appearances last season. Kiessling won more aerial duels than any other player in the league (5.4 per match) last season, providing adept knockdowns to supporting teammates when balls were played up to him from deep.
Leverkusen lost winger Andre Schurrle to Chelsea over the summer, but look to have found an adequate replacement in Heung-Min Son, and have also been able to count on an increased goal output from Sidney Sam, who has scored four in five appearances so far, including the first in their 3-1 win at home to Wolfsburg on Saturday.
Man Utd v Bayer Leverkusen Betting Tips Verdict
These two clubs met four times in 2002, but have not crossed paths since. Leverkusen pipped United to a place in that year’s Champions League final with an away goals victory at the semi final stage, but Man Utd won both group stage fixtures between them in the following season’s competition.
United have a good record at home to German sides, having won each of their last five, with Leverkusen the last team from the country to avoid defeat on a trip to Old Trafford.
Leverkusen are in good form, having recorded four wins from five league matches to date and are sufficiently dangerous on the counter attack to suggest they are capable of causing Man Utd some problems. Nevertheless, United’s strong home record and the firepower of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie should be sufficient to take them to victory.
- Bet on Manchester United to win @ best odds of 10/11 with William Hill.
- Leverkusen scored in 78% of their away matches in the Bundesliga last season, while United only failed to score in one of their 19 home matches in the Premier League. Man Utd also conceded in three of their four home matches in last season’s Champions League. Therefore, back both teams to score @ best odds of 4/5 at Stan James.