Sir Alex Ferguson hopes Manchester United can secure UEFA Champions League qualification by beating Braga so he can hand Rio Ferdinand more time to rest.
United have won their opening three group games and another victory over Braga in Portugal on Wednesday night would book a spot in the last 16 of the competition.
With Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all dealing with injuries, Ferguson has been left with just the veteran Ferdinand and Jonny Evans as his fit senior centre-halves.
But the United boss has revealed that Smalling is set to make his first appearance of the season on Wednesday, while Jones will return to training next week.
"The game in Braga will give me a chance to utilise my squad," said Ferguson. "I'll be making some changes. If we can get the win it's better, but we want to make sure we qualify first. If we do, it gives me options to utilise Smalling and Jones.
"Phil Jones will start training with us next Monday which is good news - he is making really good progress now.
"Chris Smalling is with the party and will be involved on Wednesday. They can only help us with that - those two are outstanding young defenders and it will give us a fantastic squad to take on all our challenges.
"Then we can make sure that Ferdinand is fresh for all these games. I won't have to worry about playing him Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday.
"That's an important issue. I don't expect Vidic to be back until Christmas so it adds back-up in that respect."