By Jason Gee
Manchester United FC face Bayer 04 Leverkusen in UEFA Champions League Group F on Wednesday needing only a draw to earn a seeded position in the second group stage.
United, victors in all their group games until an embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Maccabi Haifa a fortnight ago, are on 12 points, while last year's losing finalists are three points behind in second place. But for Sir Alex Ferguson's team a win is now crucial to wipe away the memory of their poor derby display in the English Premiership on Saturday when they lost 3-1 to Manchester City.
Team of stars
"We would like to win this match and I will put out a team to make sure we win it," said Ferguson, whose side will be looking for some measure of revenge after being knocked of out of last season's tournament at the semi-final stage by Leverkusen.
United are still without their injured captain Roy Keane, but for Juan Sebastián Verón, who has finally shaken off a long-term Achilles problem, it will be a chance to continue his good form and pay back Ferguson who has backed the Argentinian throughout a difficult first year at the club.
'Try even harder'
"I'm grateful for the manager's support," Verón said. "He has defended me when maybe I wasn't playing well. His support surprised me a bit because normally you don't get managers continually backing their players when things are going badly. That meant a lot to me and gave me the impetus to try even harder this season."
Leverkusen will be without defender Juan (thigh injury), Nigeria midfield player Pascal Ojigwe (knee injury) and playmaker Yildiray Bastürk (suspension), while defenders Lucio and Diego Placente, midfield player Bernd Schneider and striker Oliver Neuville are being rested. Hanno Balitsch, 21, is expected to start the game, while Jan Šimák will cover for Basturk and Christoph Preuss will be on the right side of midfield. Brazilian França and Thomas Brdaric are in contention for the striking roles.
Klaus Toppmöller said that his decision to rest players did not mean he was not taking the game seriously. "With a victory we could win the group which would enable us to start the next phase with a home game," he said. "Besides there is a match bonus to play for and playing at Old Trafford is an experience for every player."
The German club, who are 12th in the 1. Bundesliga after a poor start to the season, lost 2-1 to United in Leverkusen in September. United though have also had an inconsistent beginning to the Premiership, lying just fifth after that defeat to Manchester City, although they have fared far better in Europe.
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