Ferguson’s men have won eight of their last 10 fixtures across all competitions. They will have newfound concentration on European matters after seeing their League Cup run come to an end at the hands of Chelsea.
Braga, while not at the top of their division, are still challenging for title honours in the Liga Primeira and are just three points off first-place Porto.
Like their midweek opponents, Braga’s main strengths lie in attacking, meaning spectators could be in for another goalfest come Wednesday evening.
Braga have won their last two on the trot and have lost just one league game so far this season. The Portuguese top-flight isn’t the highest of standards, but the Archbishops are still an in-form side as far as the Red Devils are concerned.
The defensive woes look set to continue for this week’s visitors as Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all look likely to remain sidelined through injury.
Shinji Kagawa will continue his road to recovery from a knee injury that he picked up in the reverse edition of this week’s match.
Several fringe players could feasibly make their way into Ferguson’s starting lineup after impressing against Arsenal. The Scotsman will be taking nothing for granted in a game that could seal his side’s immediate future in this competition.
Meanwhile, Braga have no fresh injury concerns to worry about and would appear to be at full strength for what could be a massive turning point in their bid for Champions League advancement.
UPDATE: Chris Smalling has trained on Wednesday and is in contention to play on Wednesday, although no official decisions have been made in rushing his recovery.
Manchester United Projected Starting XI
Anders Lindegaard; Rafael, Jonny Evans, Michael Carrick, Alexander Büttner; Anderson, Tom Cleverley; Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney; Javier Hernandez
Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to lead with an identical defence that started proceedings in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, despite the early lapses that became evident in that encounter.
Ferguson has utilised Michael Carrick extensively at centre-back in recent months. Given the health concerns and the relatively low risk of this week’s game, it’s likely the Englishman will once again get the nod ahead of injury-prone Rio Ferdinand. Patrice Evra may also be rested to give the inexperienced Büttner a trial.
Anders Lindegaard could once again continue his rotation with David de Gea, even though the latter enjoyed a decent performance over the weekend.
The Dane will get his shot in the coming fixture.
Anderson performed admirably after coming on against Arsenal on Saturday. He could well be rewarded with a starting spot against Portugal, forming a double pivot in midfield alongside Tom Cleverley who was instrumental in the comeback at Old Trafford.
Ryan Giggs, having come under this kind of pressure on so many occasions in the past, will likely get his chance from a starting spot, having impressed in the League Cup loss against Chelsea.
Javier Hernandez could be rewarded with a start next to Wayne Rooney after salvaging the three point against Braga last time around. Robin van Persie could receive a rest after a hard-fought fixture against the Gunners.
Sporting Braga Projected Starting XI
Beto; Ruben Anorim, Nuno Andre, Paulo Vinicius, Elderson; Custudio, Hugo Viana, Helder Barbosa; Eder, Alan, Ze Luis
With no considerable injuries to worry about, it’s likely that Braga will line up in the 4-3-3 attacking formation shown at Old Trafford last month.
In that encounter, it was Alan that proved to be the Portuguese side’s main man, and it’s likely that the Brazilian will be looked to once more to provide the hosts’ attacking threat.
José Peseiro has shown his willingness to utilise a 3-4-3 formation on occasion this season, but United’s strength on the wings makes the tactic an impractical one for Braga this time around.
Helder Barbosa may step in to provide support from the wings. Paulo Cesar could earn a starting place having remained on the bench in the reverse fixture.
Prediction: Braga 2-2 Manchester United
Having already fended off the Archbishops once this season, Manchester United may look to install some changes for the coming clash.
It’s unlikely to work in the visitors favour.
A win is what’s needed to see the Red Devils through to the next stage of competition, but given the European lapses in concentration of late, it’s unlikely that fate will be sealed this time around.
Both sides have the attacking flair to expose what are quite weak defences at times, giving the neutral viewer the perfect stage for a potential goal bounty.
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