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The only UEFA Champions League participants with maximum points, Manchester United FC are already assured their place in the knockout rounds and enter their home game against Sporting Clube de Portugal seeking a fifth straight victory that would guarantee their progress as Group F winners.
• However, they can expect fierce resistance from a Sporting side who need a positive result to maintain their hopes of pipping AS Roma to second place in the section.
• The last-minute equaliser that Roma scored at Sporting's Estadio José Alvalade on Matchday 4 left Paulo Bento's team facing an uphill task to qualify for the last 16. They sit three points behind Roma, with an inferior head-to-head record, and so need to better the Italian club's result at FC Dynamo Kyiv if they want to keep their challenge alive going into Matchday 6.
• For United, the pressure may appear off but Sir Alex Ferguson will want his charges to sew up first place in the group. With a five-point lead over Roma, this will happen regardless of events at Old Trafford if Roma fail to beat Dynamo. If the Giallorossi win in Kiev, however, United will have to take three points themselves to secure top spot prior to their visit to Rome next month.
• United were comfortable 4-0 winners against Dynamo on Matchday 4, Gerard Piqué, Carlos Tévez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo the scorers. That success followed a 4-2 away triumph in Kiev a fortnight earlier when Rio Ferdinand, Rooney and Ronaldo (2) got the goals.
• United had previously recorded victories at Sporting and at home against Roma. A second-half header by Sporting old boy Ronaldo settled the Matchday 1 fixture in Lisbon, while Rooney got the winner against Roma.
• After their opening defeat by United, Sporting responded by winning 2-1 at Dynamo where Tonel and Anderson Polga both struck in the first period.
• Sporting's hopes were dented subsequently by their yield of just a single point from the double-header with Roma. They went down 2-1 in the Italian capital on Matchday 3, Mirko Vučinić's 70th-minute goal consigning them to defeat after Liedson had cancelled out Juan's opener.
• Although Liedson struck twice in the return on 7 November, a Polga own goal on 90 minutes cost them victory as the game finished 2-2.
• A fifth successive win would represent United's best run in the UEFA Champions League since 2002/03, when they last managed the feat.
• United have won eight straight home games in the UEFA Champions League and lost just one of their last 32 fixtures at Old Trafford. The solitary defeat of that sequence came against AC Milan in February 2005.
• Despite beating Dynamo, Sporting have a disappointing record on the road in the UEFA Champions League, with seven defeats and three draws in their ten other away games. Before that victory in Ukraine, their last away success in Europe's élite club competition came in 1970/71 – 4-0 at Malta's Floriana FC in the first round of the European Champion Clubs' Cup.
• United's squad features two former Sporting players in Ronaldo and Nani and an previous coach of the club in Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant Carlos Queiroz.
• Ronaldo had one season in Sporting's first team after graduating from the junior ranks, making 25 appearances and scoring three goals during the 2002/03 campaign. He subsequently joined United for a fee of more than €18m.
• Nani, who left Sporting in a €25.5m transfer in May, made 58 league appearances and scored nine goals for Sporting between 2005 and 2007. He featured in all six of their UEFA Champions League games last term, scoring once.
• Queiroz held the reins at Sporting between 1994 and 1996 and led the club to victory in the Portuguese Cup.
• Prior to this season, the teams' only previous encounter came in the 1963/64 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals and it ended happily for Sporting who recovered from a 4-1 first-leg deficit with a spectacular 5-0 victory in the return. The Lisbon club went on to lift the trophy with a 1-0 final replay win against MTK Budapest.
• Sporting's six previous visits to England have brought two wins, one draw and three defeats. The more recent of those two wins was a 3-2 success at Middlesbrough FC in the UEFA Cup Round of 16 in March 2005.
• United have won seven and drawn one of their previous eight home games against Portuguese opposition. The most recent visitors were Sporting's city rivals SL Benfica, whom United beat 3-1 in December last year.
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