Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must surely have planned to send a reserve side out to Switzerland for his team’s final Champions League Group C tie against Basel.
For when the Scot looked at the fixture list he will have backed his side to have wrapped up top spot before the final game in a group which, on paper, looked to be there for the taking.
United have also shown their ability to keep things tight away from home in Europe in recent times, with seven clean sheets kept in their last eight Champions League away games.
However, home draws against Benfica and Basel have proved costly and, despite being unbeaten in the competition so far, Ferguson finds himself needing to send his big guns out to Switzerland in order to secure progress to the last 16.
A draw will do it for United, with this eventuality priced at 29/10 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market.
Nevertheless, the fact that the away side are clear favourites at 11/20 suggests the Red Devils could yet pick up a win rather than the draw they need as a bare minimum.
Meanwhile, Basel are priced at 5/1 to clinch the victory which will see them through.
The biggest factor working in United’s favour is that, save for a blip against Benfica at Old Trafford two weeks ago, they have rediscovered the art of defending.
Since their 6-1 humiliation at the hands of neighbours Manchester City, the Red Devils have battened down the hatches and kept a clean sheet in six of their subsequent nine matches.
Indeed, it would have been seven in nine had Newcastle not converted a harshly-awarded penalty in United’s last Premier League game at Old Trafford, and eight out of nine had Ferguson not decided to field a reserve team against Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup last Wednesday.
Crucially, United have also shown their ability to keep things tight away from home in Europe in recent times, with seven clean sheets kept in their last eight Champions League away games.
And while it should not be forgotten that Basel scored three at Old Trafford in September, a more cautious approach could enable United to make amends and keep a clean sheet at St Jakob-Park at odds of 13/10.
A successful £25 free bet on Man Utd to keep a clean sheet against Basel would return £57.50, with the free bet available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account.
While United have a newfound defensive solidity following the Manchester derby, they are also less potent going forward.
Much of this has been to do with the deployment of Wayne Rooney in a deeper role, with United missing the England striker’s presence up front.
However, with Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez out injured and Danny Welbeck short of match sharpness, the England striker could yet spearhead the United attack tomorrow.
Even so, with United scoring more than one goal just three times in their last ten matches – one instance of which came against Aldershot in the Carling Cup – there do not appear to be many goals on the agenda.
This makes a bet on there being under 2.5 goals worth a punt at odds of 21/20, particularly as over 2.5 goals is odds-on at 18/25.
As for the final score, United still have players at their disposal to hit Basel on the break and grab a winner, even if they decide to keep bodies behind the ball in order to keep things tight.
This makes an away win with under 2.5 goals a good bet at 3/1.
And with United’s top-scorer Rooney more likely to be in an advanced position, back him to be the man who gets the crucial last goal at odds of 4/1.
New customers can register here to claim a free £25 bet or click here to see all our Champions League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting