Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Champions League Preview: Manchester United vs. AC Milan

So the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals kicks off today at Old Trafford. United are at home with a less than first choice line up against a more than rested Italian side that aren't as strong as they used to be.

The biggest problem I see is that the United defense is in such horrible shape and they could get even worse by match time if Evra is ruled out of the match and Fletcher has to fill in for him. If that happens, all four first choice defenders would be in street close for this match, which is never a good sign in a European Semi-Final. I honestly see Evra being the entire lynch pin to how United does today. If he is fit enough to take the field, than I can see United pulling out a 2-0 or a 2-1 victory over AC Milan. The biggest issue is Evra.

With Heinze available to start on the left and O'Shea and Wes brown to fill in the middle, Evra will need fill in for the right side. Fletcher isn't a defender and regardless of how well he has done in the EPL at this position, you never want to have a guy start out of position in a European match. If Evra doesn't play and Fletcher is the right sided defender, than the Carrick and Scholes will have to play alot more defensively, which will cut the offense in half.

If Carrick and Scholes do not have to provide a greater amount of defensive support for the back four, than I see no reason for Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney and Smith to be able to create several chances and pick up a few goals. Carrick and Scholes are going to have to play the ball between the defense and the forwards much cleaner than they had been in the last few matches, as the Milan midfield will be a bit more of a annoyance than Watford, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough provided.

Assuming that Evra plays, I see more of a pressure offense from United. If Fletcher has to play instead of Evra, than I expect a more defensive United side, with more people behind the ball.

With Evra: Manchester United 3 - 0 AC Milan
Without Evra: Manchester United 2 - 1 AC Milan

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