Robin Van Persie comes off the bench to help fire United to victory at Braga. Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez also find the net as the visitors qualify as Group H winners with two games to spare. Defending champions Chelsea grab a last-gasp win over Shakhtar, with Fernando Torres, Oscar and Victor Moses all amongst the goals for the Blues…
Chelsea 3 Shakhtar 2
Juan Mata’s Fantasy owners were delighted to see the playmaker recover from a brief hamstring problem to take his place in the first XI, while David Luiz also returned from injury to start alongside Gary Cahill in the heart of defence, with John Terry kept on the bench. Elsewhere at the back, a hamstring injury to Ashley Cole afforded Ryan Bertrand a chance to start at left-back. Fernando Torres and Oscar (with his fourth goal of the European campaign) grabbed the first-half goals before substitute Victor Moses headed home a late, late winner from a Mata corner for the defending champions.
Post-match, Di Matteo indicated that there was still concerns on Terry’s match fitness, although we can surely presume that he’ll return for the clash with Liverpool at the weekend. It remains to be seen who makes way in central defence.
“JT is a fantastic player and has many qualities and I am very happy that he is back available, but considering in the last four weeks he has had one competitive game I thought we needed players that were 100 per cent match fit for a game like this. But we will certainly need him.”
Chelsea Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Bertrand, Mikel, Ramires, Mata, Oscar (Moses 80), Hazard, Torres (Sturridge 90)
Braga 1 United 3
Robin Van Persie, Rafael and Rio Ferdinand all dropped to the bench but the trio were called upon with the visitors starting defeat in the face. Van Persie notched the equaliser but still seems to be behind Wayne Rooney on penalty duties; the latter stepped up to fire home United’s second from the spot, despite his miss against Arsenal on Saturday. Javier Hernandez kept up his recent good form by firing home the third – the win not only maintains the Red Devils’ 100% record but also ensures they finish top of Group H, affording Sir Alex Ferguson a chance to rest and rotate over the remaining two matches. The game also saw Chris Smalling make his first appearance of the season after a long-term toe problem, while Antonio Valencia was fielded at right-back, though Rafael’s second-half arrival at the expense of Nani saw the former Wigan man move back to the wing.
United did suffer a couple of knocks, however, with Jonny Evans forced off on 58 minutes and Nani also suffering from a setback. Assistant boss, Mike Phelan, brought us this post-match…
“Jonny felt his groin a little bit – I think it probably happened during the penalty incident. As a precaution we took him off quickly. With Nani I think it was probably just a lack of games and his hamstring started to tighten up, so we weren’t taking any chances with that.”
United Starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Evans (Ferdinand 58), Evra, Nani (Rafael 73), Anderson, Giggs, Welbeck (Van Persie 64), Rooney, Hernandez
In Other News
Moussa Dembele could be set to return in time for Tottenham’s north London derby with Arsenal in Gameweek 12, according to Andre Villas-Boas. The Spurs boss revealed the club have decided against an operation on the Belgian’s hip problem with Dembele instead handed a course of physiotherapy in an attempt to alleviate the problem:
“We could either give him surgery immediately, but there is no certainty it will cure the problem, or he could rest, have manual therapy, train in the swimming pool. That allows the player the possibility of return within 10-15 days, so we are taking that option at the moment, without having the surgery.”
The former Fulham man’s loss has been a significant blow for Villas-Boas of late. Spurs have won all four of the league matches he has started, while Dembele’s debut saw him climb off the bench to grab a goal and earn a point against Norwich. They have picked up just three points from the subsequent three league games – a narrow win at Southampton – and with Sandro also a doubt for Sunday’s trip to City with a calf problem, Villas-Boas doesn’t have his problems to seek in central midfield right now.
Glen Johnson has returned to training ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Johnson had started the first eight Gameweek for Brendan Rodgers before sustaining the injury in a recent Europa League game with Anzhi – mainly used at left-back this term, his absence has allowed Jose Enrique a chance in the last couple of matches but with youngster Andre Wisdom impressing on the right, Rodgers faces a dilemma should Johnson be passed fit to face his former club. The Liverpool boss has taken no chances with this week’s Europa League squad, though – the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Jose Reina, Joe Allen, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Raheem Sterling have all been omitted for the return trip in Moscow.
Danny Simpson has added to Alan Pardew’s defensive woes ahead of Newcastle’s home match with West Ham after the right-back was ruled out of this evening’s Europa League game with Brugge due to a shoulder problem. Pardew’s options are already limited – he has Fabricio Coloccini suspended for the next three league games and with James Perch also likely to miss out, Vernun Anita could be set to cover at right-back once again. Alternatively, Anita could cover for the suspended Cheick Tiote in midfield, with Davide Santon moving to right-back and Shane Ferguson handed a chance at left-back against the Hammers. Pardew received some good news on the injury front yesterday, after Yohan Cabaye was included in tonight’s squad – the Frenchman looks to have shrugged off the hamstring problem that forced him off at Liverpool on Sunday. Reports also suggest Demba Ba still has a chance of returning in time to face his former club.