Manchester City just can’t get to grips with this Champions League lark can they? They took their time in beating Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen before being played off the park by champions Bayern Munich in the last match; now they need to win in the Russian capital against CSKA Moscow to get their Champions League season back on track.
Moscow’s own start to the season hasn’t been great, and they were similarly beaten by Bayern in the opening game before beating Plzen, albeit narrowly.
Both sides are on three points after two games, and know that a win is pivotal to their chances of finishing second behind a seemingly unstoppable Bayern.
Bayern have claimed six points and scored six goals in their opening two games of the group stages, making them clear favourites to top the group if anyone dared doubt them before.
Both City and Moscow are part of the chasing pack but Bayern have already cruised to success against both and now face the less difficult task of beating Plzen at home.
With the Bavarian giants almost guaranteed to be on nine points come ten o’clock on Wednesday night, a win is even more important for both sides. However only one team can win, so who will come out on top?
City’s away form has been particularly poor this season, so they’ll need to improve if they’re going to win in Moscow. However they do have an incredibly talented squad with captain Vincent Kompany, midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure and the free-scoring Sergio Aguero forming an impressive spine.
On their day they can perform to devastating effect, but they haven’t quite proved themselves this season, especially not in Europe.
CSKA Moscow haven’t quite proved themselves either this season; the Russian champions have fallen behind the early pacesetters following their stuttering start and need a lift in Europe to boost confidence in the Russian capital.
They’ve only taken one point from their last two matches (which happened to be against the current bottom two in the Russian Premier League) and could do with a positive result at home to Manuel Pellegrini’s men to keep their European hopes alive.
The real gem of the CSKA Moscow side is Alan Dzagoev, the attacking midfielder who lit up the European Championships a year ago in Poland and Ukraine.
Former Russia manager Guus Hiddink described him as ‘a really clever player with the ability to make a killer pass and stretch the play’ and he has proved his worth at both club and international level over the last few years.
His range of passing and quality of crossing makes him a dangerous player when it comes to setting up chances, and Pablo Zabaleta will have his hands full should the Russian play wide left.
The club's top scorer so far this season is Ahmed Musa, who has scored five goals in 13 games. Admittedly it’s not been the greatest of starts for the Nigerian striker this season, but his size and speed allow him to get in behind opposition defences; if he can go one-on-one with Joe Hart he may be able to get the better of the heavily criticised England goalkeeper.
Another danger man is Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda, who has attracted Premier League interest before and will be out to show Manchester City why. The Moscow midfielder had previous issues with playing a more defensive role for his club, showing his tendency and desire to get forward and commit to the attack; he’s got a great long shot and is a free-kick specialist, so City need to close him down if he’s in the final third.
City are so unpredictable in Europe it’s difficult to determine which way this one’s going to go, particularly with Pellegrini’s men being away from home.
CSKA Moscow have their danger men and are capable of causing problems, but lack an out and out striker and may struggle against Kompany and Co.
City have a great opportunity to get themselves out of the group for the first time in their history, and need to win games like this if they’re going to seize that opportunity. It’ll be close, but City should be able to edge it.
Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester City
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