Two sides that enjoyed important opening round victories – CSKA Moscow and Manchester United will face each other this Wednesday, on a typically cold night in the Russian capital.
CSKA Moscow have started their European campaign on a hugely positive note with a smash and grab win in Lisbon and will now count on their usually solid form at home – to keep the momentum alive. The Russian side, came from behind, thanks to Vitinho’s neatly converted spot kick followed by Zhamaletdinov’s close range finish to take home all three points in a contest where they had so little of the ball (27%), something that could be expected on Wednesday.
It would be interesting to see, however, if CSKA Moscow could overcome a strong Manchester United firing on all cylinders.
For Manchester United, this is a massive fixture – where a win could mean a huge step towards progression to the knockout rounds, which as Mourinho described, is the ‘bare minimum’ this campaign, in Europe’s Premier competition. United have started both their domestic and European season strongly and Mourinho has at his disposal, probably the strongest Manchester United side there has been in the last four years – with a good mix of pace , power and a bit of stardust to go with it.
Having not lost in the last four occasions against the Russian outfit, United could do with a similar result to ensure their lead in Group A.
Manchester United have traveled to Russia for their Champions League game against CSKA Moscow without Marouane Fellaini, while 29-year old Nemanja Matic has made it to the squad that flew out on Monday. Paul Pogba will continue to be on the sidelines with the midfielder nursing a hamstring injury. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are available after completing one and three-game suspensions respectively.
- Vasili Berezutski’s first goal for 11 months set the Army Men en route to a 2-0 home victory over FC Rostov on 16 September.
- United are eight matches unbeaten, winning seven of them, since the loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
- Russian Premier League runners-up in 2016/17, CSKA won two of their first three home games against English clubs, but none of the last five (D2 L3). Their overall record against Premier League teams is W3 D5 L9.
- United’s overall record against Russian clubs is W3 D7 L1; away it is W1 D4 L0.
Igor Akinfeev – CSKA Moscow
One of the most recognizable players in CSKA Moscow – Igor Akinfeev has been a mainstay between the sticks for the Army Men since 2003 for the senior tea, having played his entire career at the Russian club clocking up over 500 official appearances.
His leadership and big game experience has always made CSKA a daunting opposition especially in Russia, backed by over 30,000 fans in the VEB arena. Keeping it tight at the back and building on the strong foundation will be the likely approach to cause an upset on Wednesday meaning Akinfeev holds the key to his side’s chances against Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Anthony Martial has had a blistering start to his campaign, despite making more appearances from the bench than on the starting line-up. The Frenchman, oft-criticized for his aloofness on the pitch has responded with consistent performances, more importantly with much improved end product averaging a goal/assist every 31 minutes.
The 22-year old still has a long way to go this season but he is, at the end of the day, one of Man United’s most naturally proficient talents going forward and having already scored in the same fixture in 2015, it will be fascinating to see if Martial could repeat the feat once again under a different manager.
United to eke out another narrow victory to put some daylight between themselves and the rest of the group.
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United