As Manchester United continue to struggle in the English Premier League, the Champions League has been a bit of a salvation for David Moyes so far this season. However, fail to pick up a positive result against Bayer Leverkusen in Germany on Wednesday night, then that league nightmare might just transform to Europe as well.
United can qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League with victory over Leverkusen, a side they beat 4-2 in the reverse fixture on Matchday One.
So, easy enough it should seem considering the first result at Old Trafford. But then this United side have failed to convince many a time this season, with their lack of creativity going forward a serious concern, while their defence has been far from assured either.
The 2-2 draw at Cardiff was not the result that United required after their morale-boosting 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal. But then United's failings came to the fore yet again, as Cardiff picked up a deserved point courtesy a late goal.
The Champions League can be a perfect outlet to get out your league frustrations, and Moyes will hope some of his experienced players step up and fire the Premier League champions to the knockout stages.
United lead Group A with eight points from four matches, while Leverkusen are a point behind them. The dangerous Shakhtar Donetsk are also well within qualification range with five points, while Real Sociedad are pretty out of it with just a point.
"The group is very open," Moyes said. "We had a good opportunity at Sociedad to defend a good position but [after a 0-0 draw there] we have a big job here in Germany. We know it is going to be a hard game tomorrow [Wednesday] and we have to do our job so that it doesn't go to the final game against Shakhtar.
"We have had good results at home. We need to show the same away from home. It's important we get a result of sorts to keep us in a strong position in the group. We have to make sure we're defensively sound and also that we go out there to win."
Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypia will relish the challenge of possibly derailing United's chances, having done so a few times in the past while playing for Liverpool. Leverkusen will know if they can take all three points against United on Wednesday, then they will be in pole position to qualify with their final game being against Sociedad, while United face the trickier encounter against Shakhtar.
"It is an important match for both sides, but we're the home team," Hyypia said. "We have played a lot of good matches here so far, and this is what I expect tomorrow. It won't be easy for United to win here.
"In Manchester we were a bit frightened to play our game, but since we are at home, we want to show our qualities and play in a more uninhibited way. Of course, United have a very good team with a lot of individual quality. We have to work as a team, then we'll be able to beat them."
Team news: Sidney Sam misses out for Leverkusen with a thigh injury, but Sebastian Boenisch is expected to be available after he was rested in the 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin at the weekend.
Marouane Fellaini is suspended for United, but the major blow is the fact that Moyes will be without two of his most important players in Robin Van Persie and skipper Nemanja Vidic, who are ruled out with groin and head injuries respectively.
Phil Jones and Rafael are doubts after missing the draw against Cardiff on Sunday.
Key men: Bayer Leverkusen: Stefan Kiessling has been in sparkling goalscoring form, and warmed up for the United tie with his eighth Bundesliga goal of the season, netting the winner against Hertha.
Manchester United: With striker partner Van Persie missing, the onus will be on Wayne Rooney to not just be the orchestrator, but also chip in with a few goals.
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 1.15 am IST start on Thursday morning with live coverage on Ten Action in India. You can catch the action live online by clicking the link HERE. To live stream the action in North Africa and the Middle East, click HERE. To watch the match in the U.S. via Fox Sports click HERE. To catch all the action via live streaming in the U.K., click HERE.
Expected lineups: Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Donati, Wollscheid, Toprak, Can; Bender, Rolfes, Castro; Kruse, Kiessling, Son.
Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Giggs, Cleverley; Nani, Rooney, Kagawa; Hernandez.