Manchester United trek east to Bucharest for a European night on Tuesday when they clash with Otelul Galati in a group-stage tie. This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides and the Otelarii's (translation is "steelworkers") first match ever against an English side. The match will be played in Romania's 55,600 capacity National Stadium in Bucharest -- which is roughly 120 miles away from Galati's 13,500 capacity stadium in Otelul -- because UEFA did not rate their home ground suitable for UEFA Champions League ties. The attendance was relatively low for the home side when Galati hosted SL Benfica but a nearly full stadium is expected for when the Reds come marching in.
United come into the match sitting 2nd in the table in the English Premier League and 3rd in their Champions League group after two draws. This past Saturday saw the Reds earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield versus bitter rival Liverpool FC. If United want to finish atop of Group C, three points are likely a must in Bucharest. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will surely have an eye towards Sunday as well when the Reds battle league-leader and rival Manchester City. This is an important week for the Reds.
Injuries have ravaged United in the early going of the season but they appear to be getting healthy. Captain Nemanja Vidic is expected to return from his injury lay-off for Tuesday night's tie but fellow center-back Rio Ferdinand has been left back in England so that he can be rested ahead of Sunday's tie with City. Tom Cleverley and Rafael continue to recover from long-term injuries but neither is available for this match.
The Romanian champions have failed to earn a point thus far in their Champions League debut. Their first match was a 2-1 defeat away to FC Basel and their most recent one was 0-1 defeat to Benfica at home. Domestically, Galati are struggling to regain the form of their championship campaign -- they currently sit 9th in the table after 10 matches in Romania's 18-team league. If they have any hope of advancing from the group-stage to the knockout stages, three points are a must in this match versus United.
In defense for United, No 1 David De Gea is likely to be in goal and Vidic at center-back. The other center-back will be either Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, or Jonny Evans. At left-back, Patrice Evra is probable but Fabio is a possibility as well. At right-back, Smalling, Jones, Fabio, and Antonio Valencia are all candidates to start. In the central midfield, Anderson likely returns to the starting XI after sitting versus Liverpool and Michael Carrick may be his partner. Out on the flanks, Nani, Valencia, and Park Ji-sung are all possibilities on the right while Ashley Young, Park, and Nani are options on the left. Rooney returns to the starting lineup and his partner up top will be either Javier Hernandez (Chicharito), Danny Welbeck, or Dimitar Berbatov.
For Galati, expect to see Branko Grahovic between the posts and Sergui Costin with Milan Perendija as the center-back tandem. At right-back, Nejc Skubic and Cornel Rapa are candidates to start while Zoran Ljubinkovic and Adrian Salageanu are possibilities at left-back. In manager Dorinel Munteanu's 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 shape, expect to see Gabriel Giurgiu and Ioan Filip in the center of the park in the band of two. Liviu Antal is expected on the right flank in attack while Laurentiu Bus is likely on the opposite left flank. Up front, Marius Pena is the lone man up front with John Ike Ibeh is a withdrawn from him in the center.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Typically in this portion of TBB's match previews, tactical keys are provided. However, because of my relative unfamiliarity with Galati (I've never seen them play), a few things to keep an eye out for will be provided instead.
* Is the attack back?: Fergie sprung a surprise this past Saturday versus Liverpool when he left out Nani, Anderson, Chicharito -- and most notably, Wayne Rooney -- from his starting XI. The team sheet prior to the match appeared to lack creativity in attack and that's exactly what occurred. A functional XI did well to minimize Liverpool's goal-scoring chances but they failed to create many of their own. It is possible that all mentioned attackers, that were left out versus Liverpool, will feature on Tuesday night in Bucharest. Fergie made it quite clear that United need three points in both of their upcoming matches versus Galati. The foot will be on the pedal and look for United to create goal-scoring chances throughout the match.
* Careful against the counter: In most matches this season, United have had little trouble in generating goal-scoring chances. However, they have been prone to conceding a high number of shots on goal. The two main issues in regards to this has (1) been the failure of full-backs to track back at times and (2) the lack of a holding-midfielder in most matches. This has allowed the opposition to hit United on the counter in the space behind the full-backs or from the space between the lines. If Carrick starts, it'll be interesting to see if he sits deep and shields the defense. United will likely control the possession in this match and in turn, this likely means the full-backs getting forward again in support of the attack. Will there be a holding player to cover these marauding runs and also when Anderson surges forward?
* Be clinical near goal: It would be quite shocking if United didn't get numerous goal-scoring chances in the early portion of the match. The key will be to be clinical with their finishing and not allow Galati to grow into the match. A big crowd is expected and if United allow the home side to linger around, the crowd may become vociferous and could will their side into the game. Despite the two losses in Champions League thus far by the Otelarii, they are a side that have been competitive and close to earning a point against both Benfica and Basel -- two sides United have yet to defeat.
Odds: Otelul Galati 14/1, Draw 11/2, Manchester United 1/5
Prediction: Otelul Galati 1-3 Manchester United