Cluj dreaming of shock win at Man United
(AP Photo/Jon Super)
MANCHESTER, England (AP) With a Manchester derby looming, Romanian side CFR Cluj is hoping to catch Man United off guard on Wednesday and keep alive its hopes of reaching the Champions League's last 16 for the first time.
Cluj and Galatasaray are level on points heading into the final matchday of the group stage as they fight for the runner-up spot in Group H behind United.
Galatasaray holds the head-to-head advantage so Cluj must better the result of the Turkish side, which visits Braga.
A victory for Cluj at Old Trafford would make things interesting, and shouldn't be discounted given that already-qualified United will rest players ahead of Sunday's English Premier League match against Manchester City.
"You're allowed to dream before a match at the Theatre of Dreams," said Cluj midfielder Mario Camora, referring to the nickname of United's Old Trafford stadium. "We will sacrifice, we will fight for every ball. It's a unique opportunity to play in such a stadium in front of one of the best teams in the world."
United defender Nemanja Vidic was hoping to play for the first time since injuring a knee in September, but the center back "needs another few days' training," according to United manager Alex Ferguson.
Wayne Rooney will start, but Robin van Persie and Rio Ferdinand are expected to be among the big-name players to sit out to stay fresh for the derby between the Premier League's top two teams.
"We have to be fair to all the teams who are trying to reach important positions, whether that's the Champions League or the Europa League," Ferguson said. "In that respect, we'll play a team that we expect will win."
Cluj has already scared United this season, taking the lead in Romania before two goals from Van Persie sealed a 2-1 win for the three-time tournament winners in October.
That came amidst a run of four straight victories for United, securing its early progress and making amends for last season when it was surprisingly eliminated at the group stage.
"We've bounced back incredibly well this season," said United defender Phil Jones, who has also recently returned from injury. "The lads have played some terrific stuff in the Champions League games that I've seen. Hopefully we can kick on and go as far as we can."
Galatasaray hasn't reached the knockout stage since 2002 but is in pole position because Portuguese team Braga is already out.
"No one should be fooled by the fact that Braga is placed last in the group," Galatasaray defender Emmanuel Eboue said. "They beat us 2-0 (in Istanbul). We need to concentrate hard and fight hard. No one should think that we are facing an easy game."
Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was injured during Friday's disappointing 1-1 draw at Gaziantep in the Turkish Super League, making him a doubt.
Updated December 4, 2012