CSKA Moscow v Manchester City
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
5pm KO Live on Sky Sports 1
“In Africa, we have worse pitches there” – Yaya Toure
The talking point in the run up to the game has been on the state of the pitch that was ruled not fit enough for Viktoria Plzen to play on three weeks ago and has been described as patchy and threadbare at best. Its something for the media to focus on rather than City after they have are unable to mention our failure to win away from after Saturday’s excellent win at West Ham United.
In terms of the group stage I think most supporters will have expected City to be in this position at this stage with our ability to qualify resting on the back to back games against CSKA Moscow where the side the collects the most points will secure second spot behind Bayern Munich. Assuming Bayern collect maxium points from the two games against Plzen that will leave them with twelve from twelve. If City can see of CSKA Moscow twice it’ll leave them six clear of CSKA with two games to go and CSKA still to face Bayern so a win tonight should give us a huge chance of progression to the next round.
The Opposition – CSKA Moscow
CSKA Moscow head into the game having lost four and drawn one of their last five league games after having won six and drawn two of the first eight to find themselves in sixth place in the Russian Premier League (of 16) and a negative goal difference. It is fair to say for the 11 time and reigning Russian Champions are not used to the struggling domestically but the lack of goals can probably be explained by the sale of Vagner Love to Chinese club Shandong Luneng Taishan at the start of the season.
In the Champions League CSKA have had a similar start of City losing their opening game of the group stage 3-0 away at Bayern Munich before beating Viktoria Plzen 3-2 at home with goals from Tosic, Honda and a Reznik own goal in an entertaining game which most defensive minded coaches will have watched from behind their own hands.
Players to Watch
I’m not going to pretend I have much of an idea of what the starting line up for CSKA Moscow will be (there hasn’t been as much Russian Premier League on ESPN so far this season) or how they will play so I’m going to pick out three players to watch.
In a country that produced Lev Yashin it is hard to start without looking at their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Standing 6’1 Akinfeev is no stranger to anyone who has ever played Football Manager. Saving a penalty on his CSKA debut at the age of 17 Akinfeev has made 263 appearances and won 64 caps for Russia at the youthful age (for a goalkeeper) of 27. He has collected the Russian goalkeeper of the year award six times and was nominated best young goalkeeper in Europe in 2008 and is considered one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.
Signed in 2009 for £6 million the Japanese playmaker was one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup. A deadball specialist.
Alan Dzagoev was Russia’s best player at Euro 2012 and potentially the most dangerous player in CSKA’s team. Has been deployed deeper this season but the playmaker is dangerous and could look to exploit the game in the hole between City’s midfield and backline forcing the centre backs out of position and exploiting the space it creates.
City – three key(ish) points
I won’t go through the starting XI for City as its liable to be completely wrong.
Centre back pairing
On Saturday I was in darkest Chesterfield when my mate text me the starting line up it didn’t take long for my dad to follow that up with a text about the centre half pairing of Garcia and Nastasic. However both did well to combat the height of Diame, Vaz Te and Nolan. Will lightning strike twice or will he swap them out for Lescott and offer Demechalis a debut?
Kolarov or Clichy
My fingers bleed as I tap the keys of my laptop to write this but Kolarov has had truly excellent spells at left back this season and has started to become the goal threat that his price tag suggested he should have been when arrived. Clichy is a solid a full back as there is in world football but if he had the end product that we all wished he had he would be playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Dzeko or not Dzeko
Two starts one goal in the Champions League is a return that any striker would be pleased but it doesn’t really tell the whole story of Dzeko in Europe. Against Bayern it was painful to watch as his first touch and work rate left a lot to be desired. It’s a tough one of Pellegrini who backed Dzeko publically in the summer in a bid to boost his confidence and may feel compelled to stick with him. However step forward Alvaro Negredo who has started the last two games and has performed impressively. ‘The Beast’ scored an impressive goal from the bench against Bayern Munich and has very quickly shown himself to be a more all round forward creating goals for others as well as scoring himself.
Lets not forget the seemingly forgotten man Stefan Jovetic either.
Its always a difficult to offer a prediction in the Champions League and even more difficult in Russia. City are playing well have faced some tough opposition but will we have one eye on Sunday at Chelsea? Which is the priority? I can City getting the job down with a 2-0 win and a significant amount of possession. An early goal is crucial.
If this man can score goals in Russia…
A massive thanks to Bobby Brows of www.mancityfans.net for this excellent Champions League Preview