Even with their dominance across all competitions the last two seasons, Bayern have never had a match like this one. Already in the knockout stage as the winner of Group E, the only tangible aspect to the result is a decimal on their UEFA Coefficient.
Instead, they hold the European fate of three clubs in their hands. All tied on five points a piece, CSKA Moskva, Manchester City, and AS Roma will have one final push to be the runner-up in the group. While City and Roma clash gladiator style, CSKA could silence the two of them with a shocking victory in Allianz Arena.
Pep Guardiola has convinced the media that this is a match Bayern will not take lightly, for they know the attacking wallop CSKA can conjure. A manager dejected from late group stage defeats the last two years to Manchester City, he will want to make sure that Bayern are in the right mindset mentally going into the rest of the Hinrunde, but there could be a limit. After all, eight of his players are injured, so he will trend the line between forcefulness and frugality.
The Match (4th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Olegario Benquerença
FC Bayern: 1 W, 1 D, 0 L – 7 YC
Assistants: Ricardo Santos, Rui Tavares
Fourth Official: Nuno Pereira
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Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Soccer 2Go, ESPN3
Canada: Sportsnet World Now
UK: Sky Go, Sky Go Extra, Sky Go Red Button
Germany: Sky Sport 1, 2 & 3 | HD, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WWLWW
CSKA Moskva (0-1) Bayern
FCB: Thomas Müller (P 22')
UEFA Champions League: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 3-0 (UEFA Champions League: September 17, 2013, Munich)
Eight injuries and suspensions. Not a bad time for Bayern to have a match with minimal meaning. This is a match where Guardiola can play with his tactics, and perhaps integrate a player or two.
One of those players could be Bastian Schweinsteiger. He has appeared in all four of Bayern's matches since the November international break but has yet to start since returning from his injury. Bayern's match against CSKA Moskva is the perfect environment to return to; a low-leverage competition against a club bound to sit back and wait for an opportunity to counterattack.
Bayern will have just two central defenders able to play with Mehdi Benatia serving a red card suspension, an unnerving prospect considering Guardiola has had to use a center back substitute twice in five Champions League matches. There is an outside possibility that the gaffer switches to a back-three, but with David Alaba and Philipp Lahm injured, that scenario seems very unlikely.
Guardiola could easily field a B-team, one that would involve names such as Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, and even Gianluca Gaudino. That would continue the long-term argument of the preservation of fitness vs. form, especially since Bayern have just four matches before the month-long Winterpause.
It is a type of match that Bayern has not played for a while, where the possibilities of outcomes seem endless.
Projected Lineup (4-3-1-2):
Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Xabi Alonso – Sebastian Rode
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Leopold Zingerle, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Mitchell Weiser, Gianluca Gaudino, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Xherdan Shaqiri
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Thiago Alcântara (knee), Holger Badstuber (thigh), Mehdi Benatia (red card), Philipp Lahm (ankle), Javi Martínez (knee), Claudio Pizarro (thigh), Pepe Reina (calf), Tom Starke (ankle)
It is time to give kudos to this CSKA Moskva team. UEFA plopped them in the group of death, where everyone expected them to roll over and let English, German, and Italian giants steal the spotlight. Oh contraire!
Leonid Slutsky has his one convincing victory away from the knockout stages, a feat the Russian club has only done two other times. CSKA's league form has been spotty, but part of the inconsistency centers around Slutsky's approach to the Champions League. Incredible, how a team that lost to Viktoria Plzeň a year ago has gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City and AS Roma.
The biggest difference is this side's midweek relentlessness and resilience, something that Guardiola admired in his press conference. They play very direct, their attackers quick and shifty to manufacture enough shooting space to get a shot off in a blink of an eye. Their reputation is as a tremendous counterattacking team, but their impatient, decisive passing and constant movement allows them to succeed in a static attacking third as well.
Seydou Doumbia, their Ivorian pace-setter in attack, sat at the weekend in preparation for this important test. Whether Slutsky plays Pontus Wernbloom or Alan Dzagoev in midfield will clearly project his approach to the match, Dzagoev the more attack-minded of the two. Georgi Shennikov has completely supplanted Krill Nababkin from the left back spot, part of a back line that can leave pockets of space open at poor times.
This club has been fun to watch, and they will hopefully have at least two more matches to show to Europe what they can do.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Ahmed Musa – Roman Eremenko – Zoran Tošić
Bibras Natcho – Alan Dzagoev
Georgi Schennikov – Sergei Ignashevich – Vasiliy Berezutski – Mário Fernándes
Bench: Sergey Chepchugov, Kirill Nababkin, Alexei Berezutski, Georgi Milanov, Pontus Wernbloom, Dmitry Efremov, Konstantin Bazelyuk
Out/Suspended: Rasmus Elm (stomach)
As strong as Bayern's defense has been all season, CSKA Moskva has the individual attackers that can squeak one past Manuel Neuer's golden hands. That said, even a depleted Bayern offensive can thrive in the space that CSKA allows. This result does not have any implication for Bayern, but CSKA will be devastated if they cannot contain the Bayern machine.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-1) CSKA Moskva
The Other Matches
UEFA Champions League (Tuesday, 2:45 PM EST)
Olympiakos CFP vs. Malmö FF
Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid
Liverpool vs. FC Basel
Real Madrid vs. Ludogorets
Monaco vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Benfica vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Galatasaray vs. Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund vs. Anderlecht
UEFA Champions League (Wednesday, 2:45 PM EST)
Roma vs. Manchester City
Barcelona vs. PSG
Ajax vs. APOEL
Chelsea vs. Sporting CP
Maribor vs. Schalke 04
Porto vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Athletic Bilbao vs. BATE Borisov