It appears that youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will start Wednesday night's tie at Estadio da Luz versus SL Benfica. For the former, it would be his UEFA Champions League debut.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson just concluded his pre-match press conference ahead of his side's UEFA Champions League group stage tie with SL Benfica. Ahead of the press conference, the team news that grabbed headlines was the absence of Rio Ferdinand from the travel squad to Lisbon. The boss simply had this to say about his center-back:
"It's just a precaution really."
With an upcoming league clash versus Chelsea on Sunday, and having played this past Saturday versus Bolton Wanderers after recently recovering from an injury, it is not surprise to see Ferdinand left out of the squad for this away tie versus Benfica. It was possible that Ferdinand would asked to play because of the knocks suffered by Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra this past Saturday but all indications are that each have recovered -- both Evans and Evra traveled with the squad to Lisbon.
Fergie also had an update on captain Nemanja Vidic's injury:
"The assessment of his [ calf ] injury at the time was pretty accurate. He hasn't started training yet. I would think it will be another two weeks before he does."
With the injury to Rafael, this leaves United a bit thin in regards to depth in defense. For this Benfica tie, five defenders traveled: Evans, Evra, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Fabio. A youthful defense is to be expected on Wednesday night.
When asked about team selection for tomorrow night's match, the United boss did not reveal very much. Here is what he had to say in that regard:
"I have not picked my team yet. We are coming into a period where we have the game tomorrow, then Chelsea on Sunday, Leeds United on Tuesday, then Stoke away on the following Saturday. Obviously the squad will be used but first of all we are giving a lot of consideration to Benfica. I have not decided [ who will play ]. I have a few things to think about. But it wouldn't worry me at all to play the team that is doing well."
So, there you go. It is anybody's guess as to what lineup Fergie will use tomorrow. Will he switch shape and go 4-3-3? Will Wayne Rooney be rested after heavy minutes in recent weeks for both club and country? Will Dimitar Berbatov get his first start of the season? Will Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia make their returns to the club?
Here is a list of the full squad that traveled to Benfica:
* Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Anders Lindegaard
* Defenders: Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Fabio, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling
Match Preview: The Busby Babe
Q&A with a Benfica fansite: Planet Benfica