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LOSC Lille Métropole coach Claude Puel has told his players to expect a backlash from Manchester United FC in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League Group D match following their heavy defeat at the weekend.
United dropped 13 points behind Chelsea FC in the Premiership after a 4-1 loss at Middlesbrough FC, and travel to the Stade de France without several experienced players. But Puel dismissed the suggestion it was a good time to face the English giants, claiming United's determination to bounce back coupled with his own team's improving form could make for an explosive encounter.
"Losing at the weekend will make them more determined," Puel said. "I'm not convinced it's a good time to play them. They have some big players out, but they still have plenty of top players available.
It has all the ingredients of an exciting match and we hope to play our part."
Bottom of the section with two points, Lille are yet to score in the UEFA Champions League this season. Yet Puel is taking heart from the goalless draw at Old Trafford and remains confident his side will soon find the back of the net. "We're progressing with every game. We produced some nice approach play in Manchester, stringing together 14 or 15 passes, but didn't finish the moves off. That's something we're working on."
Lille's domestic fortunes are another source of encouragement. They appear to have recovered from a shaky start and are the second-most prolific team in Ligue 1 following Saturday's 1-1 draw at Olympique de Marseille. Right-back Mathieu Chalmé hopes that scoring form will be translated on to the continental stage, saying: "We'll try everything to get the ball in the net. If we could get one it would liberate everyone and we might score a few."
Puel is still without injured captain Stéphane Dumont, but otherwise has a full complement of players available. Former Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder Milenko Ačimovič is likely to continue in a free role behind Peter Odemwingie or Matt Moussilou after impressing on his return to England a fortnight ago. "I enjoyed playing at Old Trafford because the team performed well," Ačimovič said. "United are one of the best sides in Europe but we showed we can compete with them."
Meanwhile, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wants his players to regain some of the pride they lost at the weekend, saying: "The players were disappointed on Saturday. They have their pride and don't take losing lightly, but they're lucky they have another important game on Wednesday. We need to win but I also want my players to start enjoying their football again."
'Not easy to handle'
With Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Quinton Fortune, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Ryan Giggs and Louis Saha all injured, and Paul Scholes suspended, Sir Alex is counting on his younger players performing. "Having so many experienced guys out is not easy to handle, but the youngsters have plenty of ability," he said.
Wayne Rooney returns from suspension to partner captain Ruud van Nistelrooij in attack, while Sir Alex confirmed that Rio Ferdinand will play despite his dip in form. Left-back John O'Shea says United owe it to the supporters to produce a good display. "
Our pride was hurt on Saturday and we need to put it right for the fans and for the club," said the Irish international. "We're top of the group and we'll be in a great position if we win."
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