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. The heated match, however, should send tempers in Moscow to the boiling point as the English face-off with the Russians on their home turf.
CSKA Moscow have started their European campaign on a hugely positive note. With a smash-and-grab win in Lisbon, they 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. This was followed by Timur Zhamaletdinov’s close-range finish to take home all three points. This was quite a feat in a contest where they had the ball just 27% of the time—something that could repeat itself on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see, however, if CSKA Moscow can overcome a strong Manchester United—firing on all cylinders.
For Manchester United, this is a massive fixture. A win could mean a huge step towards the knockout rounds. According to Mourinho, it is the ‘bare minimum’ in this campaign. United have started both their domestic and European season forcibly. Actually, José Mourinho probably has the strongest Manchester United side in the last four years at his disposal—with a good mix of pace, power and a bit of star-dust to go with it.
Winners of their last four matches against the Russian outfit, a similar result will ensure United’s lead in Group A.
Manchester United have traveled to Russia for their Champions League game against CSKA Moscow without Marouane Fellaini. Nevertheless, 29-year-old Nemanja Matić flew out with the squad on Monday. Paul Pogba will continue to be on the sidelines with the Serbian 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 September 16.
- United have been unbeaten for eight matches. They’ve had seven wins 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. Yet, they’ve won none of the last five (D2 L3). This gives them an overall record against Premier League teams of W3 D5 L9.
- United’s overall record against Russian clubs is W3 D7 L1 (home) and W1 D4 L0 (away).
Key man for CSKA Moscow
Igor Akinfeev, one of the most recognizable players in CSKA Moscow, has been a mainstay between the sticks for the Army Men since 2003. He has played his entire career at the Russian club, clocking up over 500 official appearances.
His leadership and experience have always made CSKA a daunting opposition, especially when backed by 30,000 fans in the VEB arena. Keeping it tight at the back and building a strong foundation…this will be the most likely approach to cause an upset on Wednesday. In essence, this means that Akinfeev holds the key to beating Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Key man for Manchester United
Anthony Martial has had a blistering start to his campaign, despite appearing more on 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, he’s had a much-improved end product. He averages a goal/assist every 31 minutes.
The 22-year-old still has a long way to go this season. At the end of the day, though, he is one of Man United’s most naturally proficient talents. Having scored in the same fixture back in 2015, it will be fascinating to see if Martial could repeat the performance under a different manager.
Manchester United 2-1 CSKA Moscow
United to eke out another narrow victory, putting some daylight between themselves and the rest of the group.