Real Madrid will look to build on their strong start in the Champions League when they travel to VEB Arena to take on CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.

UEFA Champions League returns this midweek with Matchday 2 of the group stage. On Tuesday, holders Real Madrid will be continuing the defence of their title when they pay a visit to CSKA Moscow at VEB Arena in their second Group G fixture.

CSKA Moscow are currently placed tied second in Group G after they played a 2-2 draw with Viktoria Plzen on Matchday 1. But, the Russian heavyweights will be carrying some momentum into Tuesday’s Champions League tie, having narrowly beaten FC Orenburg 1-0 in a Russian Premier League clash this past weekend.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, were near perfect in their opening Champions League game of the season, cruising to a 3-0 win over AS Roma at Santiago Bernabeu. But, the European champions have since lost some steam, having only managed a solitary win in the three games that have followed.

The two sides have only locked horns on two other occasions previously, with Real Madrid enjoying a comfortable 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in a Champions League Round of 16 tie in 2012. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

CSKA Moscow

Can Viktor Goncharenko & co. spring a surprise? (Photo courtesy - Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Can Viktor Goncharenko & co. spring a surprise? (Photo courtesy – Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Viktor Goncharenko has a major injury crisis on his hands ahead of the visit of Real Madrid for the UEFA Champions League group stage clash. On Tuesday, the CSKA Moscow boss will be without as many as seven first-team players, which leaves his roster down to its bare bones.

The likes of Abel Hernandez (hamstring), Kristijan Bistrovic (ankle), Konstantin Kuchaev (knee), Hordur Magnusson (hamstring), Aleksandr Makarov (knee) and Viktor Vasin (knee) are all on the treatment table due to their respective injuries.

Khetag Khosonov has returned to full training after recovering from a foot injury, but the match has come too soon for the Russian youngster. With nearly a third of his first-team squad unavailable, most of Goncharenko’s selections will be forced, although he still has a number of key players at his disposal.

The back four pretty much picks itself, with Nikita Chernov and Rodrigo Becao lining up at the heart of the CSKA Moscow defence. Flanking the duo, will be Mario Fernandes and Kirill Nababkin, with the latter starting as a makeshift left-back.

In the middle of the park, Jaka Bijol and Ilzat Akhmetov should be named in the pivot, with the duo looking to keep things tight in midfield by remaining narrow. Up ahead of them, Nikola Vlasic and Ivan Oblyakov will likely give company to experienced midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who will hope to direct traffic in the final third.

Upfront, Fedor Chalov is expected to lead the line for the hosts, looking to get the better of the wily, yet suspect Real Madrid defence. But, the key man will be captain Igor Akinfeev, who will be aiming to thwart and frustrate the visitors’ front-men on Tuesday.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev; Fernandes, Becao, Chernov, Nababkin; Bijol, Akhmetov; Vlasic, Dzagoev, Oblyakov; Chalov

CSKA

Real Madrid

Julen Lopetegui has his fair share of problems of his own ahead of the tie against CSKA Moscow. On Tuesday, The Real Madrid boss will be without as many as four first-team players due to various issues, each of them being his key men.

Lopetegui has taken the shock decision to rest Sergio Ramos, when his squad is already depleted. Those on the sidelines include Gareth Bale (groin), Marcelo (calf) and Isco (appendicitis), with each of the players expected to be unavailable for at least the next two weeks.

Like his opposite number, most of Lopetegui’s selections are obvious, barring the selection of the goalkeeper and Bale’s replacement in the starting lineup. Between the sticks, Keylor Navas looks likely to return to the starting lineup, with the Real Madrid boss expected to stick with him in Europe.

The back four, as iterated earlier, picks itself, with Dani Carvajal, Jesus Vallejo, Raphael Varane and Nacho making up the numbers in defence. The midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will hold even more importance on Tuesday, as they will be responsible to assert Real Madrid’s control on the game.

Upfront, Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema are automatic picks. The final spot in the side will be a duel between Mariano Diaz and Lucas Vazquez. Seeing as his second debut for Real Madrid went so well two weeks ago, Mariano looks like the likelier candidate to fill Bale’s void, albeit on the left flank.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Vallejo, Nacho; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Mariano

Real Madrid

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow have previously faced off against each other just twice. Los Blancos won the return fixture in the Round of 16 tie at the Bernabeu after the first leg had ended in a 1-1 draw in the Russian capital.
  • Home Blues – Excluding qualifiers, CSKA Moscow have won only two of their last 11 European home fixtures (D4 L5).
  • The hosts though, will take heart from the fact that they are unbeaten against Spanish opposition on home soil (W1 D3).
  • Real Madrid boast a strong recent away record in the UEFA Champions League, losing just three of their last 18 ties (W11 D4).
  • But, Los Blancos’ record in Russia is one to forget thus far, having managed to win just twice in ten attempts (D4 L4).

Player to Watch

Igor Akinfeev

Will Akinfeev inspire CSKA Moscow to a popular victory? (Photo courtesy - Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Akinfeev inspire CSKA Moscow to a popular victory? (Photo courtesy – Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

A depleted Real Madrid side may be set to take the field on Tuesday. But, the European champions will still have enough quality to make it a long night for Viktor Goncharenko and his charges. With a tough challenge beckoning, the onus will be on captain Igor Akinfeev to keep CSKA Moscow in the game for long periods.

The veteran goalkeeper has almost always risen to the occasion against tougher opposition, and one can expect him to do the same on Tuesday as well. Should he indeed manage to frustrate the visitors, who knows, a popular and shock win over Real Madrid might well be on the cards.

Prediction

CSKA Moscow 1-2 Real Madrid

A tough outing beckons for Real Madrid, with four key players not making the trip to the Russian capital to take on CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. With two regulars absent at the back, the hosts will fancy their chances of breaking their duck against Los Blancos.

But, the likes of Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz will likely revel in the spotlight, when it’s shone on them on Tuesday. Real Madrid should thus, have enough firepower to get past Viktor Goncharenko’s men, if only just. The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow 2-1 win for Julen Lopetegui & co. to continue their perfect start in Europe.

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