Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Champions League Preview: Manchester United - CSKA Moscow


Manchester United can seal qualification to the Champions League knockout stages if they defeat CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils are flying in Group B after their 1-0 win over Tuesday’s opponents in Russia made it a maximum haul of nine points from three games for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Since then they have suffered a poor 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, and will have half an eye on this weekend’s big Premier League clash with Chelsea, which will mean no risks will be taken on the fitness of key players.

However, despite that pressing engagement, the target will be to seal qualification and possibly even top spot with two matches still to spare, an accomplishment Rafael Benitez’s Reds couldn’t be further away from.

With three games to go domestically in the Russian Premier League, CSKA can realistically finish as high as third or as low as sixth - so everything is to play for.

In the Champions League, it is currently odds against in their hopes to reach the last sixteen for the second season in succession. They currently trail Wolfsburg by a point, and will probably have to defeat the German champions to stand any chance of claiming second spot.

The Army Men have changed coaches since their last clash with United. Former Real Madrid, Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur coach Juande Ramos was axed after a short and unsuccessful spell, and Leonid Slutsky replaced him.

FORM GUIDE

Manchester United

Oct 31: Manchester Utd 2-0 Blackburn Rovers
Oct 27: Barnsley 0-2 Manchester Utd (League Cup)
Oct 25: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester Utd
Oct 21: CSKA Moscow 0-1 Manchester Utd (Champions League)
Oct 17: Manchester Utd 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

CSKA Moscow

Oct 30: CSKA Moscow 1-0 FC Terek Grozny
Oct 25: CSKA Moscow 1-3 FC Moscow
Oct 21: CSKA Moscow 0-1 Manchester Utd (Champions League)
Oct 17: PFC Spartak Nalchik 1-1 CSKA Moscow
Oct 10: CSKA 4-0 Kuban Krasnodar

TEAM NEWS

Manchester United

It is unclear whether Wayne Rooney will play after he missed training on Monday to attend the birth of his son Kai. Fellow striker Dimitar Berbatov is also a doubt due to a knee problem, while Park Ji-Sung and Ryan Giggs are definitely out.

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will be missing again, although Gary Neville does bolster the defence on his return from suspension. The game could come too soon for Darren Fletcher, with Sir Alex Ferguson unlikely to take many risks with Chelsea lying in wait this weekend.

Possible starting XI (4-4-2): Van der Sar, Neville, Evans, Brown, Evra, Obertan, Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Rooney, Owen.

CSKA Moscow

Sekou Oliseh injured his hip in the warm-up against FC Terek Grozny at the weekend, so did not board the plane for Manchester.

Mark Gonzalez is out after undergoing ankle surgery, while Guilherme stays on the sidelines.

Possible starting XI (4-5-1): Akinfeev, Ignashevich, A Berezutski, V Berezutski, Schennikov, Semberas, Mamaev, Carvalho, Krasić, Dzagoev, Necid.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester United – Michael Owen

With doubts over the participation of both Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, the chances are Michael Owen will be handed a start on Tuesday. The Englishman had to come off early against Wolfsburg due to a groin injury, so will be eager to make his mark in Europe for his new side.

CSKA Moscow - Tomáš Necid

Striker Tomáš Necid comes into the game on good form having scored a goal in each of his side's last two games. The 20-year-old has looked a handful in each of his Champions League appearances so far.

PREDICTION

Manchester United will want to win this game and put Europe to the back of their minds until the new year by sealing qualification.

CSKA Moscow haven’t won away from home in the Champions League since the 2004-05 season, and not many will fancy their chances of altering that record here.

This should be a comfortable enough evening for the Red Devils.

Manchester United 3-1 CSKA Moscow

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