David Moyes will be wary of history repeating itself when Manchester United head to the BayArena in the Champions League with little decided in what could yet prove a race to the finish line in Group A.
The Red Devils are overwhelming favourites to clinch top spot at 1/2 but should Bundesliga high-flyers Bayer Leverkusen continue their fine European record at home with a win over the Premier League champions, then the 2/1 available on the Germans finishing at the top of the pile could prove tempting.
Going into the final two group fixtures all four sides can still qualify for the next round – a scenario United fans will be wary of given their previous experience of such a scenario.
Back in the 2005/06 edition of the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were one of four teams competing for a second round berth, with the Reds ultimately coming undone by poor results on the road.
It’s not implausible that it could be a similar situation this year, with the Manchester United yet to pick up a win away from Old Trafford in the Champions League this term, drawing their previous two fixtures against Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad.
A trip to Germany may offer little in the way of joy, with Leverkusen winning nine of their last 11 European Cup games played at home, only losing to Liverpool in 2005 and Barcelona in 2012.
Former Anfield man and current boss of the Bundesliga outfit Sami Hyypia, meanwhile, will be in confident mood after seeing his side dispatch Sociedad and Donetsk with relative ease on their own turf.
And while a victory would leave United’s opponents in pole position, it could also set up a winner-takes-all contest between the Red Devils and Shakhtar, who are expected to make short work of their La Liga opponents, having previously won 2-0 in the hostile atmosphere of the Anoeta.
The Ukrainians will be underdogs for the clash with United but with David Moyes’ side facing a busy schedule that pits them against a resurgent Newcastle United three days before their Champions League clash at Old Trafford, stranger things have happened.
And should both Donetsk and Leverkusen win, then this final fixture could take on a different meaning, with Shakhtar only required to better the 1-1 home draw recorded earlier this year between the sides.
It would be déjà vu for United fans, who headed into their final group fixture with Benfica back in 2005 knowing a draw was enough to see them through, but ultimately losing 2-1 on the night.
Combine a United loss with a Leverkusen victory in this final game and suddenly the 15/2 offered on both the Ukrainian and German sides progressing could be worth consideration.
With so much hinging on the outcome of their trip to Leverkusen, Moyes will be hoping his team can keep things simple with a win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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