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Bayern Munich with Squad Questions Entering a Quiet CSKA Moscow Match

Pep Guardiola's defensive set-up could be as freaky as the environment in which Bayern will enter on Tuesday


Only once have I watched an closed-door match from beginning to end.

It was a Peruvian World Cup qualifier in mid-October of 2013, one that Claudio Pizarro was involved in. FIFA instituted a closed-door sanction due to two Peruvian fans entering the field and attempting to assault Argentine referee Patrick Loustau. An eerie haze settled under the lights of Estadio Nacional de Lima, and player voices, normally drowned out with chants and songs, projected so cleanly through the shotgun microphones that tracks could be used to make an audiobook for the match report.

That is the situation Bayern Munich will be in against CSKA Moskva on Tuesday.

With four players with African or Brazilian heritage in the squad last year – David Alaba, Jérôme Boateng, Dante, and Rafinha – Bayern has been fortunate to not face the racist chants CSKA is being punished for. Ironically, the German champions will be two-time beneficiaries of the sanctionable supporter behavior, having also played in a partially-closed stadium during their trip to Arena Khimki last season.

We will all witness a Bayern match that few (if any) have been able to witness before. Unfortunately, nobody will be allowed to witness this anomaly first-hand.

The Match (3rd Meeting)

Location: Arena Khimki, Khimki, Russia

Head: William Collum
Assistants: William Conquer, Graham Chambers
Fourth Official: Francis Connor

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The Fixture


Bayern: WWDWW


UEFA Champions League: 2 W, 0 D, 0 L

Largest Victory: 3-0 (UEFA Champions League: September 17, 2013, Munich)

The Squad

As if the defense did not have enough fitness questions, it appears Pep Guardiola will have compensate for a lack of defenders again in Moscow.

At the weekend, Guardiola used just Jérôme Boateng in defense against 1. FC Köln, and had to remove him from play at the 55 minute mark due to groin issues. Dante and Mehdi Benatia took over the load, even though Benatia is dealing with a thigh problem and is not fully fit. The situation is precarious for the gaffer with Boateng questionable to play, and he wants to avoid making a center back substitution during Tuesday's match.

"[Boateng] needs to always come out carefully," said Guardiola before Bayern's departure to Moscow [Bild]. We can't substitute a defender every match. Defenders normally play from the first minute to the last."

If Boateng and Benatia were not able to play, one could surmise that Guardiola would uses a sweeper much like he did against Köln. David Alaba and Xabi Alonso interchanged center back and holding midfield duties, and Bernat and Rafinha playing conservative fullback roles. Philipp Lahm would be defensive assistance higher up the pitch, able to interchange with Rafinha on the right flank.

What will remain is Bayern's attacking front. The flexibility will be able to create space between and behind a CSKA back that allowed five goals to a swarming Roma team. Arjen Robben could sit to give Xherdan Shaqiri the chance to play, a switch that would be plausible considering the playing conditions and the opponent.

This will be the worst trip on Bayern's fixture list this season, and they are determined to escape with a result.

Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):

Robert Lewandowski

Thomas Müller – Mario Götze – Arjen Robben

Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm

David Alaba – Dante – Mehdi Benatia – Rafinha

Manuel Neuer

Bench: Pepe Reina, Jérôme Boateng, Juan Bernat, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro

The Opponent

Thin squad, small budget, and somehow CSKA Moskva has found a way to get buy.

Their squad is built perfectly to the hectic, impatient pace of the Russian Premier League. Their quick, decisive buildup is a clear notch above all of their opponents, and they have the individual skill to simply outclass their opponents. Too bad it does not translate over to Europe.

In their first match against a quality team that held the ball more than they did, CSKA got picked apart. Roma's pace and perfectly timed runs left Russia internationals Sergei Ignashevich and Vasiliy Berezutski on their heels. Seydou Doumbia used every ounce of individual skill to try and get CSKA back into the match, but the goal concessions continued to set back a team used to overcoming small deficits.

Manager Leonid Slutsky has depended on this slash and dash build up for many years, and he has won the last two Russian Premier League titles with his play. He threw both Doumbia and Ahmed Musa, perhaps the fastest combination of attackers in the Champions League, in all of CSKA's big matches. The downside of that tactic is the lack of a desire to defend from his attacking midfield, which leaves the back four exposed to continuous pressure on momentum forward from the opposition.

Slutsky's side sat with two banks of four in the matches against Bayern last year, and the counterattacking ability could be the key to their success. The defense could be too vulnerable positionally, especially if they are pulled out of position, leaving CSKA with a tough task against one of Europe's elites.

Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):

Seydou Doumbia

Ahmed Musa – Roman Eremenko – Zoran Tošić

Georgi Milanov – Bibras Natcho

Kirill Nababkin – Sergei Ignashevich – Vasiliy Berezutski – Mario Fernandes

Igor Akinfeev

Bench: Sergey Chepchugov, Alexei Berezutski, Georgi Shennikov, Nikita Chernov, Dmitry Efremov, Kirill Panchenko, Konstantin Bazelyuk

The Outcome

The key variable that could change this match one way or the other is the defensive presence Bayern will have. Playing Lahm and Alaba in the middle will equip Guardiola with the remedy for Doumbia's and Musa's pace. CSKA might be able to sneak a goal or two past Neuer at home, but ultimately Bayern's continued penetration will turn the Russian champion's defense to rubble. It will be a wild match, and too bad supporters will not be on-site to watch it.

Projected Score: CSKA Moskva (2-4) Bayern Munich

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