UEFA Champions League: PFC CSKA Moskva vs. FC Bayern München | Preview

Alex Grimm

FC Bayern make the lengthy excursion to the Russian capital with a Round of 16 spot assured

Now comes the long trek to the east.

Thanks to the Yaya Touré debacle, UEFA has ordered a partially-closed stadium for CSKA Moskva's match against FC Bayern München. With Russian football supporters with a rowdy racist reputation, this news comes in pretty sweetly, especially with David Alaba and Jérôme Boateng of African descent and Dante and Rafinha of Brazilian decent.

Which begs the question. What is Pep Guardiola to do? Could he mull over leaving his some of his defenders home, protecting them from possible inappropriate jeers? With a spot in the round of 16 secured, that is not out of the realm of possibility.

If some were left behind for that reason, that might send a wrong message. After all, that could be what fans of these clubs want, the motivation for their harsh treatment. It might be giving a baseball bat to a bully. Leaving these players home may not accomplish anything, and the bigger statement would be to start every single one of them.

Regardless of the race issue in football, FC Bayern's journey to Russia will be tough to make, especially taking into account that Moscow is 1,200 miles east of Munich. The trip may test tougher than one initially thought.

The Match

Location: Arena Khimki, Khimki, Russia

Referees
Head: Antony Gautier
Assistant: Laurent Stien, Cyril Gringore
Fourth Official: Stephan Luzi

Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com

Television and Streaming
US: Fox Soccer 2, Fox Soccer 2Go, Fox Deportes
UK: Sky Sports 4 | HD, Sky Go UK
Germany: Sky Sport 1 | HD, Sky Go
Other Countries

The Fixture

Form

FC Bayern: WWWWW
CSKA Moskva: WWLWW

Last Encounter

3-0 W (September 17, 2013, Munich, Germany)
Alaba (3'), Mandžukić (41'), Robben (68')

The Squad

For the first time in a very long time, FC Bayern is facing no pressure to win. Yes, they could surpass the consecutive wins record that they currently share with FC Barcelona at nine games, and yes, they would have a better match up in the round of 16. However, if they did lose, and finish second in the group, would that be the worst thing in the world?

That makes Pep Guardiola's team selection intriguing. On the one hand, FC Bayern want to iron their patch on the Champions League. On the other, FC Bayern has a midweek match the next three weeks, one of them a DFB Pokal match and the other against Manchester City.

Franck Ribéry will likely be out with his rib injury once again, and Xherdan Shaqiri is still just outside of team training [FC Bayern]. That means Arjen Robben could start once again on the left, with either Thomas Müller starting on the right.

The conundrum once again comes in the middle of the park. Guardiola had both Philipp Lahm and Javi Martinez in the center of the park against Dortmund, but then pushed both deeper in defense throughout the later stages of the game. There is also Thiago, who came off the bench at the weekend and is on track to appear in the starting XI.

Mario Mandzukic and Diego Contento both did not make the trip to Moscow with leg injuries. That opens the for Mario Götze to get his first start up top after playing there a few times off the bench, although Müller could also move up there with Götze on the wing. It also means that Julian Green, who got called into the senior side, will get his first team sheet appearance of his career.

Rotations will rile up the fervent football followers, and the team sheet will describe what Guardiola thinks of the match.

Projected Line-up (4-1-4-1)

Mandžukić

Robben – Kroos – Thiago – Müller

Lahm

Alaba – Dante – van Buyten – Rafinha

Neuer

Bench: Starke, Boateng, Kirchhoff, Martínez, Højbjerg, Weiser, Green

The Opposition

Since CSKA Moskva came to Munich back in late September, its fortunes have fallen off. The club currently sits fourth (on goal differential) in the Russian League behind two of its Moscow rivals, Lokamotiv Moskva and Spartak Mosvka. Their racist chants aside, its performance can be summed up with a 3-2 escape at home against Viktoria Plzen.

It is a possession-based side that are tough to break down at home – they have conceded half as many goals in Arena Khimki than elsewhere in the Russian Premier League. Sergei Ignashevitch is the anchor in the back, usually with one of the Berezutski twins next to him.

CSKA does not score too many goals, having trouble finishing off their chances and sometimes settling for a longer shot. The side has scored 26 goals in 22 matches in all competitions, a 1.18 average per game. Seydou Doumbia have scored half of the club's goals domestically and a third of their goals in European Competition, all despite only making 13 appearances in both.

Manager Leonid Slutsky seems to rotate his attackers, with only Keisuke Honda the only main feature in behind the striker. Doumbia's recent success has pushed young Nigerian Ahmed Musa out of the center forward position and around the front line of three.

With not a lot of squad depth, the CSKA starting XI is a little more predictable

Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)

Doumbia

Musa – Honda – Tosic

Wernbloom – Elm

Shennikov – Ignashevitch – A. Berezutski – Nababkin

Akinfeev

Bench: Chepchugov, Karavaev, Vasin, Rahimic, Milanov, Bazelyuk, Vitinho

The Outcome

The inconsistency of effort against lesser sides makes this match a little hard to read. This could be SC Freiburg (1-1 result) again, or it could be FC Schalke (4-0 victory) again. Factoring the 1-0 result against Viktoria Plzen and the 2-1 result Manchester City recorded, FC Bayern may have a little trouble scoring in Russia.

Projected Score: CSKA Moskva 0-2 Bayern Munich

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