Champions League – Wednesday, 14-9-2011 – Manchester in Europe
By David, bettingexpert.com | Edited
Will Inter manager Gasperini’s debut in the Champions League be better than his debut in Serie A as Inter boss? He sure hopes so although he does have little time to remedy the issues seen against Palermo. Mazzarri knows he can count on a team that knows its way around. But will that be enough to disappoint Manchester City in their Champions League debut? Manchester United will not be around to witness a shock defeat as they travel to Benfica.
Manchester City – Napoli
Everybody is speaking of Napoli’s inexperience in the Champions League. They have been, a few years ago, stuck deep in the mud of Serie C football, trying to shrug off the financial crisis which had helped them plunge down the high echelons of Italian football.
However, few remember that Manchester City are about to kick off their very first Champions League match. Perhaps it may be that City do enjoy such an international status that playing Napoli seems a lot like playing Swansea or Wigan – just another countryside team asking for a beating.
Few are familiar with Napoli’s exploits and the project of president De Laurentis. Things are shaping up well and at the helm is a very prepared manager. One I would consider better than Mancini, although not by far.
The ex-Inter manager will be well aware of that though. He knows Napoli well. His wife is from there too and Lombardo was in the stands spying on the Partenopei when they defeated Cesena on Saturday night. He will not be taking it lightly. But will his players?
Verdict: Napoli +1
If anybody is thinking this will be an easy match for trigger-happy Man City, they may want to reconsider their thoughts after the match. Napoli may lack experience but so do Manchester City at this level. The guests are very well organized and should be relying mainly on fast counter attacks to sting a City side which will enjoy most of the possession but will rarely get clear chances at goal.
Benfica – Manchester United
There has been some bad blood running between these two teams, competitively speaking that is. They met previously in the group phase six years ago and five years ago with each managing to eliminate the other on one of the two occasions. United had their revenge for an early exit in 2006.
Benfica has been away from the spotlights of the big European stage for a while now but they are mature for an honourable display. Surely, meeting Manchester United will be a tough ask, especially considered the Red Devils’ form at the moment. However, it may just be the right welcoming gift for them and the fans. The eagle will fly proud ahead of the match at the Portuguese side’s home on Wednesday night.
Aside from all the glamour of the fixture it is not easy to see the hosts have the best of the current United side. They are playing fast football and although some may have pointed out at the relative inexperience of a young squad on the international level, I’m sure Ferguson will give a run to his more experienced men in midweek. He does have to prepare the Chelsea match for Sunday so going for some changes in his starting line-up should be a predictable move.
Manchester United have a great away record in Europe but Benfica are serious contenders to qualify from this group and should be taking the lion’s share of points in front of their vociferous home fans. I would expect Ferguson to line up more cautiously in Europe, with an eye cast on Sunday’s Chelsea clash.
Inter – Trabzonspor
Heavy start for new Inter boss Gasperini who lead his team to a 4-3 defeat in Sicily in his debut match in Serie A. It was expected though as the players are trying to adapt to the manager’s system. Changing from a four-man defence to one employing three men is not easy. How long will it take for the manager to have to change that philosophy of his? Probably the pressure will be too much to wait for the players to adapt.
Besides there is the Sneijder issue too. He is a key player and in the 4-3-3 has no space where he can take the playmaker role. In the last match Gasperini gave Zarate just a little more than half an hour before falling back on Sneijder, who had been benched until then.
The Nerazzurri’s main problem is still the organization of their defence. Palermo took advantage of that and Trabzonspor, despite their decisively lower profile, may be able to do so as well. The Turk’s disadvantage is that they were not really prepared for participation in the competition.
Verdict: Over 2.5
Both teams started their campaigns this weekend so they should not be as sharp. Inter possesses more quality though and ought to be favourites. However, their backline is weak and may leak goals. It should not be as comfortable for Inter but Trabzonspor’s demerits could hand the Italians a manageable match. It depends a lot on whether the guests will fear Inter. If they don’t, they can get something out of it because this is definitely the right time to face Gasperini’s team.
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Real Madrid in red. Tonight they will be sporting an unusual jersey in Croatia. Kaka has not traveled whilst Mourinho will stay in the hotel probably since he has been suspended for the match and cannot sit on the bench.