Manchester City predicted XI vs CSKA Moscow

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When Manchester City take to the field against CSKA Moscow tonight, there won't be a single fan in the stadium, but that's no reflection of the importance this fixture has on City's season.

The game, which will be played behind closed doors under the insistence of UEFA, could in fact make or break their Champions League dream, leaving Manuel Pellegrini with some big decisions to make.

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The game at the Arena Khimki will be played behind closed doors as UEFA look to punish CSKA for a series of incidents, including racist chanting the last time these two met.

What, if any, impact that has on the outcome of the game remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, these are the kinds of games where a manager can earn his salary.

With City having picked up just one point from their opening two group stage fixtures they're in desperate need of a win against a pointless Moscow side.


Perhaps the easiest decision Pellegrini will have to make is who starts in goal, with Joe Hart a guaranteed starter, especially after his weekend penalty saving heroics against Tottenham.

Willy Caballero did displace him for an earlier league game against Hull having been given a chance in the League Cup, but it appears Hart is the outright first choice.

In front of Hart, Pellegrini's back four will be a little less predictable, with competition for places all across the defensive line.

Eliaquim Mangala missed the 4-1 win over Spurs due to injury, but if he can prove his fitness in time he'll be he gets chosen to partner skipper Vincent Kompany ahead of Martin Demichelis.

At full back, Pablo Zabaleta is likely to return in place of Bacary Sagna on the right, although who will start at left back is anybody's guess.

Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov have shared the role throughout the season, but it's the Frenchman who was given the nod in the previous two Champions League outings.

Toure or not Toure?

In midfield the main bone of contention is whether or not Yaya Toure returns to the starting line up having been named on the bench at the weekend.

His absence from the starting eleven was likely due to a hectic week of international football with the Ivory Coast, but following Frank Lampard's injury the powerful midfielder will likely walk straight back into the team.

Alongside him Pellegrini may opt for one of the Brazilian duo of Fernando and Fernandinho, although James Milner has impressed in a number of positions throughout the season.

Goals win games

With City needing a win, we're predicting Pellegrini will once again go with a 4-4-2 system, with two wingers supporting Edin Dzeko and the in form Sergio Aguero.

The Argentine's four goal display on Saturday makes him an automatic starter, while Dzeko will likely get the nod ahead of Stevan Jovetic.

In the wide positions, David Silva will start from the left with Jesus Navas and Milner competing for the final position in the team should Pellegrini plump for Fernando or Fernandinho in central midfield.

There's a chance the City boss will be brave and utilise Milner's energy and enthusiasm in central midfield, and that would open up the right wing position for the electric Navas.

Predicted starting XI

Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Navas, Milner, Toure, Silva; Dzeko Aguero

Manchester City
UEFA Champions League

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