Manchester United go up against CSKA Moscow tonight, with the Champions League group game taking place at the Arena Khimki, in Moscow.
In the Russian Premier League, CSKA are unbeaten after 12 games, sitting on 32 points which is 5 points clear of second place.
In the Champions League however, the Russian side lost their first game, away in Wolfsburg, but won their second game which was at home to PSV Eindhoven. All of Group B have 3 points after 1 win and 1 loss. Also, all teams are on 0 goal difference.
Moscow’s power comes from their attack. The blistering pace of Seydou Doumbia and Ahmed Musa can often prove to be too much for opposition defences to handle. The African duo already have 11 goals and 6 assists between them.
Their midfielders are just as menacing. Ex-Manchester United winger Zoran Tošić occupies their right wing whilst one of Russia’s finest, Alan Dzagoev, fulfils their attacking midfield role.
In goal is another Russian star, Igor Akinfeev, who has kept a clean sheet in half of his league games this season. This is despite the average age of CSKA’s centre backs being 34.
Manchester United and CSKA Moscow have only met on two other occasions, both of which were in the group stages of the 2009/10 Champions League.
At Old Trafford, Alan Dzagoev, then 19, scored the opener and on the 47th minute the Russian side were 3-1 up. Paul Scholes scored in the 84th minute to make it a one goal game but then, in the 2nd minute of added time, Antonio Valencia scored to make it 3-3, and earn United a point.
In Moscow it was a fairly stale affair, with the only notable event being Dimitar Berbatov receiving a yellow card in the first half. That was until big Antonio Valencia scored the winner in the 86th minute.
If the Red Devils play as they did against Everton, at the weekend, then the only issues that they should have is dealing with Musa and Doumbia.
Morgan Schneiderlin would prove to play a vital role in defensive midfield, just as he did against Everton. The Frenchman would be able to limit the amount of balls that Dzagoev can thread through to his strikers.
Moscow’s expected central defenders, Aleksey Berezutski and Sergey Ignashevich, are aged 33 and 36. If he starts upfront, Anthony Martial will be able to blaze past these two. In fact, Rooney will probably be able to as well.
It would be nice to see Antonio Valencia make the field, possibly in the second half, to see if the Ecuadorian can continue his perfect record of scoring against CSKA Moscow.
Louis van Gaal has emphasised that it is crucial to win the home games and that it’s good to get a draw away. A draw in Moscow would be a good result but given United’s play at the weekend, they could push for the win.
The result will hinge upon the ability of the Manchester United defence to deal with big Doumbia and little Musa. Both are incredibly fast and lethal in the box. This match up might see the Smalling Bind combination being preferable.
The Dutchman is very good at sweeping up behind Smalling, so if either of the forwards happen to get past the Englishman then Blind could come over to cover.
I think that van Gaal will want to keep the high spirits in his squad and so will push for the win. He won’t make many changes to the line up from the Everton game but will keep in mind that United play local rivals Manchester City at the weekend.
Manchester United to draw would be a good result but I believe that the Red Devils could win this tie 2-0. It will be tough to keep CSKA’s offence at bay but Smalling’s got the strength, speed and form to do it.
The game kicks off at 19:45 tonight on BT Sport Europe HD.