Who are the danger players Jose Mourinho's men need to look out for Manchester United vs Basel?
United get their Champions League campaign under way against the current Swiss champions
After nearly a two-year absence, Manchester United make their return to the Champions League on Tuesday night when they line up against Basel at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho’s men may have finished in sixth last season but victory in the Europa League final secured United’s place at Europe’s top table for the new term.
The Premier League side get their campaign underway against the current Swiss champions – a club that has won the Swiss Super League for the last eight seasons in a row.
Despite this, the club have struggled to make their mark on the European stage and an easy win is expected for United on Tuesday night.
Nonetheless, here we profile Basel and take a look at the players who just might upset the apple cart:
FC Basel 1893 is one of the most successful clubs in Swiss football, having won the Swiss Super League 20 times in total, the second most for any Swiss club. Currently managed by Raphael Wicky, the side are attempting to claim their ninth consecutive league title.
Beyond the domestic stage, Basel have competed in a European competition every season since 1999. In the 2001/02 season, the club notably reached the UEFA Intertoto Cup final, losing to Aston Villa. Their best campaign in the Champions League came in 2012 and 2015 respectively when they reached the last 16 of the competition.
United have played the Swiss outfit on four occasions in the past, each match coming in the Champions League group stages. United won the first game 3-1, away in 2002, before drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford in the return fixture. In 2012, United were memorably knocked out by Basel in the group stages after a 2-1 victory at St Jakob-Park, secured by Alexander Frei’s winning goal.
Players to watch
Eder Alvarez Balanta
A quick-footed, versatile centre-back, who has drawn comparisons with fellow Colombian Davinson Sanchez, Eder Alvarez Balanta will take some beating tonight. The 24-year-old was tipped as one of South America’s most promising defenders during his early days at River Plate. After being linked to Barcelona in 2013, he eventually made the switch to Europe in 2016, joining Basel on a four-year contract. True, the player has not lived up to his early potential but as physical defender, who is confident breaking forward and an accomplished passer, United’s front men won’t be in for an easy ride.
Part of an exciting generation of young Norwegian talent that includes Martin Ødegaard, Mats Dæhli and Iver Fossum, Mohamed Elyounoussi left his homeland in 2016 to join Basel where he’s since made 38 league appearances for the side, scoring 11 goals. Having worked under United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at former club Molde, Elyounoussi has garnered a reputation as a technically gifted and hard-working forward. Although not blessed with blistering speed, the 23-year-old thrives in one-on-one situations and has an impressive ability to skip past defenders. United’s backline can expect to have their hands full with the Norwegian.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel
The Dutchman is perhaps best known for his flop spell at Norwich. Costing the Canaries a club-record £8.5m, he managed just one goal from 25 performances. After loan spells at Saint-Etienne and Betis, he joined Vitesse where he discovered his form, knocking away 20 goals from 32 appearances. After joining Basel in the summer, he’s continued to impress and heads into Tuesday night’s game with seven goals from as many games.