When I look at the teams on paper, CSKA Moscow appears overmatched. Aside from silly numbers like 50 (Anton Grigoriev) and 46 (Aleksandr Stolyarenko), CSKA simply doesn’t have the names to compete with United.
But that doesn’t mean that CSKA isn’t good. Clearly they’re good enough to qualify for the Champion’s League though, this season, their form is a little off in that they’re currently 4th in the Russian league, with 43 points. In the Champion’s League, they’ve lost to Wolfsburg (no shame in that) and beaten Besiktas (a good victory, in my opinion). So they’ve been up and down this year.
Which brings us to tomorrow. CSKA have two advantages: 1, they’ll be at home and 2, United have never beaten a Russian team in Russia. With those in mind, I think CSKA needs to come out flying and try to pot an early goal. It’s essential that Alan Dzagoev, the star midfielder with 7 goals so far this season, have a good game. Tomas Necid and Milos Krasic are also dangerous. Igor Akinfeev, a favorite of Football Managers everywhere, will get a chance to impress on soccer’s second biggest stage. Lastly, CSKA need to use United’s injuries to their advantage.
So what of United? In short, they need to play defensively but be willing to counter-attack. With all the injuries, the strength will be in the midfield and if they can control that area, things bode well. As mentioned, they have to control Dzagoev and the return of Nemanja Vidić should help with that. I’m not sure what the rest of the backline will look like, though.
I’m pretty much retired from predictions but I think the injuries and CSKA’s home advantage means a draw.