The second half of the UEFA Champions League group stages will commence in midweek when Manchester United welcome Russian giants CSKA Moscow to Old Trafford in what could prove to be a clash that potentially decides the fate of the two teams in the tournament. Louis Van Gaal’s side come off the back of a poor October in general, having won just once in six games, drawing four of the last five and firing blanks in the last three fixtures in all competitions. It does paint a dull picture for Manchester United who have found it incredibly hard to create chances and score goals for all the possession they enjoy in games. Having said that, the next two games at home including this midweek face off against CSKA Moscow could just be that turning point for United to turn the corner.
“The first time that we were not the better away team was against Arsenal so I think they have seen it very good. They can sing that [attacking chant], but in the next game maybe they shall sing in another way. I have to hope we score against Moscow again because then we are talking in a different way.”
On the contrary, Leonid Slutsky, who celebrated the completion of his sixth year as CSKA manager has made sure the Red and Blues are flying in their domestic competition from day one. They sit at the top of the league, dropping just 6 points in 14 games, opening a 9-point gap between them and arch rivals Lokomotiv Moscow. They will make the trip to Manchester, following a facile 2-0 win over Ufa FC, with the luxury of being able to rotate a few of their important players to keep them fresh and fit ahead of the big game on Tuesday. A creditable 1-1 draw when the two sides last met in Moscow would have given them the confidence to take into Old Trafford, a stadium they only know too well, thanks to their continued presence in the Champions League.
Not much improvement on the injury front as far as United are concerned, with the side still short of a few key players for the game on Tuesday. They will be without Antonio Valencia (ankle), James Wilson (knock) and Memphis Depay (knock) while Luke Shaw is out for the season.
For Slutsky, midfielder Natcho is ruled out ahead of the trip to Old Trafford and defender Berzutsky will need to be assessed prior to the game.
United are still seeking a first home win against Russian opposition, following three draws. They were held at Old Trafford in UEFA Cup first-round defeats by both FC Torpedo Moskva (0-0 in 1992/93) and SC Rotor Volgograd (2-2 in 1995/96).
CSKA Moscow’s overall record in England is W1 D3 L2.
Manchester United have conceded just two goals in open play at Old Trafford in all competitions.
Key Men Comparison
David De Gea (Manchester United) v Seydou Doumbia (CSKA)
Ever since David De Gea’s return to the starting lineup, Louis Van Gaal’s side has been particularly compact and disciplined at the back in all games, bar Arsenal. They know what they are doing while defending unlike when going forward and most of that can be down to two men at the back – Chris (or Mike) Smalling and David De Gea. The Spaniard has been making some crucial saves again in the opening minutes of games, keeping United in games longer than they should be and generally been showing the level of consistency, a player of his calibre should, in this season so far. Against a formidable attack consisting of Doumbia and Musa supported by an in-form Tosic, De Gea will have to be at his best on the night to ensure United pick up this important win on Tuesday.
Doumbia is the kind of striker that can pose problems to Manchester United’s otherwise decent back four. Blessed with an explosive burst of pace and a good knack of positioning himself in the right place, he can do a lot of damage on the break, if CSKA decide to concede possession and wait to hit the home side on the counter attack, which could well be the case on Tuesday. He can, therefore, be really influential for the Russian side against United and will fancy his chances to score past De Gea, like he did in match-day three.
Manchester United are under some pressure now. Expect them to concede first and hit back twice. Basically, a repeat of the win against Wolfsburg.
Manchester United 2-1 CSKA Moscow