Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Match Preview: Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow

Group Stage qualification just one win away for City in the Champions League

By Aaron Leggott

Following the 2-1 victory in Russia's capital city a fortnight ago, City and CSKA Moscow meet again at the Etihad Stadium with the Blues needing a win to ensure qualification from the Champions League for the first time in their history.

The reverse fixture between the teams was marred by hundreds of CSKA fans aiming racist abuse at Yaya Touré, and the Ivorian will probably be looking to silence the minority and help his team reach the knockout stages.

And following the 7-0 drubbing of Norwich City at the weekend, City come into the game in good form, winning four of the last five in all competitions.

Photo: Official MCFC Facebook

Costel Pantilimon is expected to keep his place in City's goal following his Premier League debut for the Blues on Saturday after Manuel Pellegrini confirmed Joe Hart will stay on the bench for the third successive match.

Pellegrini said: "I don't know when Joe will come back to the team. We will see in the future what we must do.

"It is very important for him to have a rest. He has played all the matches in the last two and a half years."

The Chilean also verified that both Vincent Kompany and Stevan Jovetić will miss out with respective groin and calf injuries, which will probably see Martín Demichelis keep his place at the heart of the defence alongside Matija Nastasić. 

City will be buoyed by the fact that CSKA have never won a game on English soil - coming closest in a 3-3 draw against city rivals Manchester United back in 2009.

However, manager Leonid Slutsky will remain confident ahead of the fixture after his team registered back-to-back victories in the Russian Premier League - but he will be without Alan Dzagoev, Vasili Berezutski, Mário Fernandes and Aleksandrs Cauņa - whilst Keisuke Honda remains a major doubt for the clash. 

My thoughts

What a brilliant position we find ourselves in tonight. If Bayern Munich beat Viktoria Plzen - as expected - and we repeat the feat against CSKA Moscow, then we will qualify for the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in three years.

And in truth - we should be beating CSKA comfortably tonight. Whilst you can never take any Champions League game for granted, I believe we are more than a match for our Russian opponents and if the clash at the Khimki Arena was anything to go by - they are no great shakers. 

The good news for City is that Dzagoev is definitely out, whilst Honda also remains a major doubt. This pair are two of CSKA's most influential players and if they are missing from the starting line-up, we should control the midfield with ease.

Pellegrini's choice to stick with Pantilimon in goal was a wise decision as well. After conceding only one goal in seven, he hasn't done anything wrong to justify being dropped and after Hart's well publicised mistakes - the Romanian should be number one until he makes a serious mistake. He deserves his chance, so I'm not surprised to see Pellegrini back him.

If we get an early goal, we should stroll to victory and qualify for the next stage. Come on City!

Prediction: City 2 - 0 CSKA Moscow

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(c) The Sky Blue View 2013

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