19:45 KO (BST); Wednesday 27th September; VEB Arena (Moscow, Russia); BT Sport 3
The second round of fixtures of the Champions League continues on Wednesday as Manchester United look to maintain their good start to the season by securing three points against last season’s Russian Premier League runners-up CSKA Moscow.
Both sides have had different starts to their domestic campaigns. The Red Devils have five wins and a draw after six games and are level on points with cross-city rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow are sitting third in Russia, four points behind leaders Zenit, already losing three times from the 11 games they have played. Viktor Goncharenko’s side have struggled to win matches as of late, only victorious twice in their last five domestic games.
It is an important game with both teams in need of a result for the same reasons. Manchester United will look to take six points from two games while the Russian side will hope to do the same after they grabbed a shock win at the Estádio da Luz against Portuguese Champions Benfica.
Last time out
Dynamo Moscow 0-0 CSKA MOSCOW [Russian Premier League]
CSKA drew to city rivals Dynamo in what was a goalless game at the VTB Arena on Saturday afternoon. Manager Viktor Goncharenko was without some key players as Viktor Vasin was left out for the Sergei Ignashevich at the heart of the defence while key creator Aleksandr Golovin was suspended.
Golvin’s presence was clearly sorely missed in the derby with the majority of CSKA’s attack’s subsequently very slow and unthreatening throughout the game. The reasoning for this is because of Golvin not being present in the game, with the young midfielder replaced by Israeli International Bibras Natkho, who himself didn’t have the greatest of games.
The game was not a classic by any means for CSKA. They created little and suffered another blow as fullback Mario Fernandez went off with a concussion, facing a race to be fit for Wednesday.
Southampton 0-1 MANCHESTER UNITED [English Premier League]
A Romelu Lukaku goal was enough to give the Red Devils another three points as they beat Southampton on the South Coast in a tense affair at St. Mary’s.
Jose Mourinho’s went unchanged into this game and it seemed to work in the first half as they really took control before scoring in the 20th minute.
The second half was a different story, however, and the Saints got more involved in the game, applying pressure and creating good openings. It prompted a change in approach from United and they retreated deeper into their own half to absorb the pressure.
It wasn’t the most spectacular of games by any means, but Mourinho could not care less as his United side took all three points back up to Manchester.
CSKA Moscow Lineup
I would expect a few changes from Viktor Goncharenko especially after the tough game his side had at the hands of Dynamo Moscow.
The Russian side play a three at the back system with wing-backs getting involved in attacks when they can. The link-up between Dzagoev and Vitinho will be key if they want to get a result against Manchester United on Wednesday.
I think Natkho will keep his place from the weekend to add more defensive cover for Goncharenko side in light of United’s counter-attacking threat.
Manchester United Lineup
Eric Bailly is once again available after his three-game ban from last season’s Europa League, though Phil Jones is suspended. This means that Chris Smalling may come into the side with Victor Lindelof still way off the mark. Marouane Fellaini suffered an ankle injury in the weekend’s victory.
I would expect Mourinho to keep near enough the same team from the win over Southampton, though Anthony Martial could replace Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young, despite his impressive recent performances, dropping to the bench for Luke Shaw.
Key Battle: Romelu Lukaku vs CSKA Moscow’s defence
The Belgian has been in red-hot form since his big-money move from Everton and has subsequently racked up six goals in six games in the Premier League, scoring eight in eight in all competition.
Lukaku will need to be closely watched for the full 90 minutes by the Moscow back three, such is the inventiveness of his movement.
Goncharenko will have to bring his best defence to this game if he wants to come out of it with a result and the experience of the Berezutski twins will have to shine through to contain the big Belgian. It is for sure the most interesting battle on the pitch for Wednesday night’s game.
Mario Fernandes is a doubt
The Brazilian born Russian International is a serious doubt for the game as he went off with a concussion in the derby against Dynamo Moscow on Saturday.
Fernandes is a key asset out wide for the Russian side to get forward and creating chances for the two players leading the line. Fernandes has created two chances and played two key passes in the opening night’s victory against Portuguese champions Benfica.
Goncharenko said post-match after the Moscow Derby that Fernandes could be up for selection if he recovers quick enough by Wednesday night, also stating that his medical team are doing all they can to make this happen.
If Fernandes is not ready, his replacement will most likely be Kirill Nababkin. The 31-year-old will have pressure on his shoulders coming up against Frenchman Anthony Martial and he will hope to make a good account of himself in the absence of Fernandes.
Not only does Mourinho have to find a workaround for Paul Pogba’s injury, but matters were made worse by the ankle injury sustained by Marouane Fellaini in the 1-0 victory over Southampton at the weekend, the Frenchman’s deputy.
With Nemanja Matic dispelling doubts over his fitness and making the trip to Russia, he’s set to start alongside veteran midfielder Michael Carrick.
The former England international has a wealth of European experience and he could prove a vital asset on the ball, helping to forge opportunities from his deep position.
However, a Matic-Carrick pivot isn’t the most mobile of midfields and they will need support in containing CSKA’s counter-attacks.
PREDICTION: CSKA Moscow 0-2 Manchester United
Games away in Russia are especially tough for any side in Europe and Viktor Goncharenko’s side will be up for the game and this is why Mourinho’s men can not take them lightly.
I think if United go in there with the right attitude, which I’m sure Mourinho will get across to the players come the time of kick-off, then the Red Devils should have too much for CSKA Moscow.
If United start slowly, CSKA can easily come out with at least a point from the game with the side they have.
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