Real Madrid will be hoping to continue their winning run when they host CSKA Moscow at Santiago Bernabeu in a UEFA Champions League Group G tie.
Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League group stage will conclude on Wednesday with the final eight matches being played across Groups E-H. In Group G, Real Madrid will play hosts to CSKA Moscow, with the visitors needing at least a point to remain in European competition, albeit in the UEFA Europa League.
The top two places in Group G of the UEFA Champions League are already confirmed, with Real Madrid and AS Roma booking their places in the Round of 16 back on Matchday 5. Los Blancos are the group winners as well, having bested Roma in the head-to-head battle. But, CSKA Moscow have to better Viktoria Plzen’s tally to end the group stage in third place.
Real Madrid have been largely imperious in the UEFA Champions League, a far cry from their struggles in domestic football, although recent results in La Liga have improved as well. As far as Europe is concerned, four wins out of five have been enough to clinch top spot in Group G, with the only blemish coming against CSKA Moscow.
The visitors, on the other hand, have seen their group stage unravel following the stirring win over Real Madrid back in October. The Russian side have lost each of their three subsequent matches, a sequence of results that has dropped them to rock bottom. Their performances in the league have been much better, however, which ought to give them confidence.
The reverse fixture, played in the Russian capital back on Matchday 2, ended in a 1-0 win for CSKA Moscow, with Nikola Vlasic scoring the winner. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Santiago Solari has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of CSKA Moscow, although the news on the injury front has mostly been positive. On Wednesday, however, the Real Madrid boss could be without as many as five first-team players due to various injuries.
Those who will definitely miss out are Nacho (knee), Sergio Reguilon (knock) and Mariano Diaz (muscle injury). The good news though, is that the likes of Marcelo (muscle injury), Toni Kroos (knee) and Casemiro (ankle) have returned to training this week, although only Marcelo could be available in some capacity.
Kroos was seen wearing bandage on his right knee, and it is likely that Solari will give the German maestro the time to recover completely. Casemiro, on the other hand, has only resumed light training, and could take a few more days to return to full training.
Marcelo is unlikely to start, with Solari hinting that he will ease the Brazilian into the side, so as to avoid a relapse of his injury. In his stead, Dani Carvajal should continue as the makeshift left-back, especially with Reguilon unavailable as well. On the opposite flank, Alvaro Odriozola becomes a certain starter.
At the heart of the Real Madrid defence, Solari could rest Sergio Ramos, who will face a one-match ban upon accruing his next booking. With Jesus Vallejo fit and firing now, the manager could decide to hand the Spaniard his first Champions League start of the season, with Raphael Varane being his partner at the heart of the defence.
Keylor Navas is also in contention to return to the starting lineup, starting in goal in place of Thibaut Courtois. In midfield, Luka Modric is in line to be rested, with Isco getting another chance to impress, with Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente being his partners in midfield.
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale – the hero against Huesca this past weekend – was taken off with 15 minutes left, and could start in attack, alongside Karim Benzema. The final spot should be taken up by Marco Asensio, with Vinicius Jr. likely to get a chance off the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Odriozola, Varane, Vallejo, Carvajal; Isco, Llorente, Ceballos; Asensio, Benzema, Bale
Viktor Goncharenko also has a few pressing concerns to negotiate with ahead of the trip to the Spanish capital. On Wednesday, the CSKA Moscow boss could be without as many as five first-team players when his side takes the field against Real Madrid.
The major absentee for the visitors is Alan Dzagoev, who has had his tryst with injuries this season. The other players who are set to miss out are Viktor Vasin (knee), Ilzat Akhmetov (shoulder) and Aleksandr Makarov (knee). Goncharenko is also sweating over the fitness of Rodrigo Becao.
The Brazilian defender has been a mainstay at the back for CSKA Moscow, and the manager will be hoping his star centre-back can be fit in time for Wednesday’s tie. If Becao fails to recover in time though, Nikita Chernov could be the man to replace him, with Hordur Magnusson and Kirill Nababkin being his partners in the back-three.
Igor Akinfeev is an automatic selection in goal for the visitors, although the CSKA Moscow captain will hope to avoid a repeat of the injury time controversy from the reverse fixture, when he was sent off for two “bookable offences”.
Meanwhile, Mario Fernandes and Georgi Schennikov are likely to be the wing-backs, whose output from the flanks will be key for the visitors. Jaka Bijol should be the anchor man in midfield, looking to keep things tight in the middle of the park while allowing the likes of Nikola Vlasic and Arnor Sigurdsson the freedom to express themselves in the final third.
Fedor Chalov is the visitors’ star striker, and will hope to add to his goals against Real Madrid, although the focus will once again be on the deceptive runs of Vlasic and Sigurdsson, something Varane will need to pay close attention to.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Akinfeev; Nababkin, Chernov, Magnusson; Fernandes, Bijol, Oblyakov, Schennikov; Vlasic, Sigurdsson; Chalov
- Should CSKA Moscow win on Wednesday, they would become the first team to defeat Real Madrid both home and away in the Group Stages within the same UEFA Champions League season since Juventus in 2008-09.
- Real Madrid have failed to score in only one of their last 33 UEFA Champions League matches, this coming against CSKA Moscow on Matchday 2 (0-1).
- CSKA Moscow haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last 19 Champions League matches away from home.
- Real Madrid have won 75 points from a possible 81 available in their last 27 UEFA Champions League group stage matches at the Santiago Bernabeu (W24 D3 L0). Their last home defeat in the group stage of the competition was against Milan (2-3) in October 2009.
- Gareth Bale has been involved in seven goals in his last five Champions League appearances; scoring five and assisting two more.
Player to Watch
With Santiago Solari likely to rotate his side, Isco could be one of the players who could benefit from the decision. Having shown some promising signs in his first start under the Argentine last week, he now has the chance to make further impression with another solid outing on Wednesday.
If he does, it will only bode well for Real Madrid at a time when they are starting to claw their way back in domestic football while also establishing their credentials as contender for the Champions League title. An intriguing performance beckons.
Real Madrid 2-0 CSKA Moscow
Real Madrid have nothing to play for on Wednesday. But, with some of the players having a point to prove, this could be somewhat of an encore from the game against UD Melilla in the Copa del Rey second leg last weekend. CSKA Moscow, on the other hand, will be chasing a win from the get-go.
The visitors’ pursuit of all three points could leave them open at the back. And with Marco Asensio and Isco starting to show some semblance of form, Real Madrid could seriously hurt the Russian giants. We expect a largely one-sided tie, with Real Madrid running out 2-0 winners to condemn CSKA Moscow to the bottom of the pile in Group G.