Everything that you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s match:
(1) Manchester United travel to the Fatih Terim Stadium in complete control of Group H. Wins over both Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig — the latter in crushing fashion — catapulted the Reds to the top of their Champions League group and leave them firm favorites to reach the last sixteen. With PSG and Leipzig certain to take points off each other in the next two games, United could book their place in the knockouts in no time at all.
(2) After the midfield diamond threw RB Leipzig for a loop in midweek, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reprised the formation against Arsenal on Sunday. It didn’t work. Paul Pogba and Fred kept their starting spots, but were far less influential up against the likes of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny. In the second half, the diamond bit the dust and United perked up a bit... until a brainless Pogba foul handed Arsenal the penalty kick that won the match.
(3) Unfortunately, a display like that quashes a lot of the talk that Pogba’s strong play against Leipzig could be a turning point for his season. One step forward, two steps back.
Paul Pogba was challenged on the ball 13 times vs Arsenal. He kept possession just twice. He challenged for the ball five times. He won the ball just once.— UtdArena (@utdarena) November 1, 2020
(4) On the bright side, the much-maligned Manchester United defense continued their strong play and must relish a bit of a breather against toothless Istanbul Basaksehir. In the last four matches — against top clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, RB Leipzig, and Arsenal — the Reds backline has allowed only one goal from open play and looks worlds away from the tragicomic outfit that shipped six to Tottenham Hotspur.
(5) Manchester United could really use a win on Wednesday, if only to turn the page from another league disappointment. Roy Keane, commentating on Sky Sports, warned that results like the Arsenal loss could cost Solskjaer his job:
We were almost building up this season as make-or-break for Ole, but at this moment in time it’s not looking good for him. I scratch my head at players who don’t have enthusiasm for a game of football. Sometimes you say there’s no reason to panic, but the results and performances suggest you should be panicking. He says they are good boys and want to win, but I judge a player by actions. My eyes don’t lie to me. The last disappointment was just a few weeks ago against Spurs — this team reacts for a few weeks and gets carried away with themselves. Ole will lose his job working with these players. That’s what is going to happen.
(6) Istanbul Basaksehir may not be a household name in world football, but you’re probably familiar with some of their players. In fact, they’ve become a retirement home of sorts for Premier League mediocrities like Demba Ba, Martin Skrtel, and Nacer Chadli. Plus, former Old Trafford fave Rafael da Silva signed there this summer and plays regularly at right back.
Meanwhile for Istanbul Basaksehir, Demba Ba enters with Rafael and Martin Skrtel in the same team. How often do you think Ba brings this up in training? pic.twitter.com/OmRq4da3qH— Luke Gardener (@LukeGardener82) October 28, 2020
(7) Last season, Basaksehir held off Trabzonspor to win their first Super Lig title. That’s more impressive than it sounds — just two Turkish clubs outside of Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahce have won the league since 1984.
(8) But their title defense isn’t exactly proceeding according to plan. Okan Buruk’s side sat bottom of the Super Lig after four matches, with just one point — and no goals — to their name. The Basaksehir squad struggled to press opponents as effectively as last season, probably owing to aging players unable to sustain a breakneck pace. Since then, though, they’ve stanched the bleeding with three league wins in a row to rise up to 7th in the table.
(9) In the Champions League, Basaksehir show all the signs of becoming the punching bags of Group H. RB Leipzig and PSG both beat the Turks 2-0, although Basaksehir made Les Parisiens work hard for their spoils. PSG were held scoreless for over an hour, before Moise Kean made the most of a rare start with two late goals. The biggest news from that match: Neymar injured his groin and will be out until after the November international break.
(10) Basaksehir manager Okan Buruk on his team’s strong play against PSG:
[Thomas Tuchel] said that we are a very good and strong team in their analysis. I believe this game would bring goals. Such good deeds will bring us both goals and wins. I do not see our rivals as the favorite of the matches we will play. There will be equal chances when we perform the same game. We will play to win the Manchester game.
(11) Basaksehir find goals increasingly hard to come by. Demba Ba hasn’t scored yet this season and Enzo Crivelli, who usually leads the line, isn’t doing much better — one goal in seven Super Lig matches. In fact, the club’s most dangerous attackers are found in midfield with Edin Visca (3 goals and 1 assist) on the right wing and Irfan Can Kahveci (2 goals) in the middle. This is a prime clean sheet opportunity for the Reds.