It should be a procession for Manchester United tonight, but assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.
Time: 7:45 p.m
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Previous Champions League playoffs have seen United face little to no trouble in progressing to the main event. They faced Dinamo Bucureşti in 2004, winning 5-1 on aggregate. 2005 saw Hungarian champions Debrecen offer no resistance, with 3-0 wins in both legs for the Old Trafford outfit.
The lesser spotted strikeforce of Javier Hernandez and James Wilson will surely get their chance to shine and persuade Van Gaal to not chase any last-minute striker recruits. Adnan Januzaj was also namechecked as a striker in yesterday’s press conference, so it will be interesting to see if he occupies a more central role.
#mufc Romero in goal tmorow. DDG with reserves a bit & 1st team a bit since last week & yet to be told when/if will be invited back for good
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) August 17, 2015
Marouane Fellaini returns to action, while Phil Jones remains out with thrombosis and Jonny Evans is a doubt.
If United are facing a selection headache, Brugge are suffering a full blown migraine.
Their injury list sees no less than eight players out of contention, with many of them first team players.
Refaelov (foot), Izquierdo (calf), Meunier (knee), Gedoz (groin), Engels (knee), Ibini (shin), Coopman (knee), and Denswil (knee) are ruled out, so the Red Devils won’t have an easier opportunity to face the Jupiler Pro League runner-ups. That being said, van Gaal is aware of the threat that Victor Vasquez, arguably Club Brugge’s most dangerous player, poses:
“I think he is very good, one of the key players. Not only fast but he has good vision,” Van Gaal claimed at yesterday’s press scrum.
“There is a lot of pressure because our aim and goal is to reach the Champions League, and that is what Arsene Wenger mentioned last year, that these kind of matches are difficult,”
“And because of the draw, I think it is much more difficult because we have drawn Bruges and they can defend very good and they can attack also, so it shall be a difficult match and that is why the pressure is high.”
The match will be shown on BT Sport Europe in the UK, and on TV3 in Ireland.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Club Brugge