MAN CITY v CSKA MOSCOW – City to rocket over Blue Moon

Manchester City are set to light the blue touch paper and rocket through to the knockout stages of the Champions League with a feast of football fireworks tonight.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be on an unstoppable trajectory out of Group D if they can produce an illuminating performance of power, precision and poise and send CSKA Moscow spiralling out of the competition.

It's a knockout - a City win tonight would surely see them into the last 16 of the Champions League

It’s a knockout – a City win tonight would surely see them into the last 16 of the Champions League

Having savoured success winning the now sadly defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup way back in 1970, it would be overstating the case to claim the CSKA clash is the most important in City’s various continental football campaigns over the years – but it comes a close second.

A win tonight guarantees progress into the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition, opening up new horizons as City strive to take a seat at the top table beside the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

That’s not to imply that City are deluded enough to think they have somehow ‘arrived’ and are credible contenders for the Champions League crown in Lisbon next May – no, no, no!

The ‘D’ in Group D never stood for ‘Death’ as in City’s ill-fated missions under Roberto Mancini. That’s not to say the ‘C’ word – complacency – could not yet be City’s undoing.

Hartbeat - Joe will be absent tonight but his vital save secured the win in Moscow

Hartbeat – Joe will be absent tonight but his vital save secured the win in Moscow

They laboured long and hard to edge a 2-1 win in Moscow a fortnight ago and, had it not been for a last ditch stop by the now deposed Joe Hart, could have been pegged back to 2-2 in the dying minutes.

Ifs, buts and maybes have littered City’s vocabulary when assessing previous wreckage-strewn CL sojourns. If they somehow conspired to screw up against CSKA it would represent a ‘car-crash’ of unimaginable proportions…but that isn’t going to happen.

The Russians are undoubtedly coming – unless of course you are a drunken Muscovite in which case you’re diverted to Copenhagen – but a sharpshooting City should send them packing at the Etihad.

Breakout group - Pellegrini will have taken City further than his predecessor in the CL with a win tonight

Breakout group – Pellegrini will have taken City further than his predecessor in the CL with a win tonight

Pellegrini has taken a bit of a public relations pounding since moving from Malaga to Manchester, mainly due to unexpected reversals on the road in the Premier League.

He’s perhaps a tad fortunate that the PL is wide open this season and, as such, winning it remains a totally viable proposition with just under three-quarters of the schedule still remaining. On the flip side he could secure CL qualification with only two-thirds of the games played.

It calls for perspective at all times and City’s MP will be sitting very comfortably if his side wins this evening, with or without reproducing the pyrotechnics of Saturday’s 7-0 crushing of the Canaries.

As widely reported, Costel Pantilimon will remain as City’s last line of defence against the Russian Army’s most favoured corps. Joe Hart has reportedly taken news of his demotion – temporary as it may be – in the ‘right fashion’, presumably one that involves recognising his shortcomings, working hard and attaining new heights in concentration levels and goalkeeping husbandry.

Vincent Kompany will be absent for a sixth consecutive start and unlikely to appear until the home encounter with Spurs 10 days hence. Luckless Stevan Jovetic won’t be available until December having suffered damage to his calf – the latest in a catalogue of injuries since joining from Fiorentina.

Veteran campaigner Martin Demichelis should make his European debut for City after witnessing the extremes of the English domestic game, the highs of a landslide victory and the lows of a ‘last minute’ defeat.

Kolarov call-up? Will AK47 get the chance to shoot CSKA down?

Kolarov call-up? Will AK47 get the chance to shoot CSKA down?

Vastly experienced in Europe, the Argentine collected a CL runners-up medal when Bayern lost 2-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the 2010 final. Paradoxically, a runners-up slot this season would represent huge progress for City.

Aleksander Kolarov could be recalled at left back with Pablo Zabaleta on the right and Matija Nastasic, rebuilding his confidence after the Chelsea nightmare, partnering Demichelis in the centre.

The midfield offers Pellegrini a plethora of riches with David Silva in sublime form and the real Samir Nasri, finally emerging in sky blue. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho are forging a better understanding of who does what and when, while Jesus Navas and James Milner give the manager alternative permutations.

Magical Merlin - David Silva is in top form

Magical Merlin – David Silva is in top form

Sergio Aguero is in the form of his life with 11 goals so far this season, while strike partner Alvaro Negredo has adapted to life in England very quickly and bagged half-a-dozen goals into the bargain.

On the carpet like Etihad surface and with a 45,000 partizan crowd roaring them on, drowning out any CSKA ‘fans’ who might be stupid enough to repeat the disgusting racial taunts aimed at Yaya, City are red hot favourites and rightly so.

Baker's Dozen - a Sergio brace of goals would take his season's tally to 13 tonight - bad news for CSKA

Baker’s Dozen – a Sergio brace of goals would take his season’s tally to 13 tonight – bad news for CSKA

Back-to-back wins over Moscow would secure second spot in the Group with Bayern, as reigning European Champions, destined to secure top slot.

Qualification would fulfil an essential element of Pellegrini’s brief and afford him the luxury of making the PL his top priority for the next three months at least.

He could select his best sides for tough PL matches against Spurs, Swansea, Southampton and Arsenal – without the worry of still having to beat Plzen in Manchester and a wintry trip to Bavaria – sandwiched inbetween. He just needs City to sparkle tonight.



By David Walker




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  1. November 5, 2013  9:12 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    A very big game tonight for sure. MP would not be criticised for starting with the same 11 who despatched Norwich on Saturday, however it seems mandatory to change full backs about :-)

    Hopefully CSKA continue their poor away record and City can breathe a sigh of relief after qualification for the next phase.

    There is already gossip on defensive strengthening in January's transfer window, qualification will no doubt raise the target pool to a different level.

    Aguero is in stunning form, so a quick brace from him before half time would certainly calm the nerves.

    • November 5, 2013  10:10 am by David Walker Reply

      Full strength tonight - no margin for error. Get the job done then concentrate of PL all the way through to February.

  2. November 5, 2013  9:13 am by Chris Williams Reply

    Everyone will quite rightly say that Pellegrini will have taken us further than Mancini, but we have had the easiest Group that we've ever had in the CL. That said it'll be brilliant to progress and to be fair should go through with 12 points which will be remarkable.

    Looking forward to giving CSKA a sound thrashing tonight unless MP plays it safe and rest a few with Sunderland away at the weekend, you could understand that as we need to keep up the momentum in the Prem and should have enough at Etihad to beat this lot tonight.

    • November 5, 2013  10:12 am by David Walker Reply

      True, I think Bobby Manc would have seen us through this group. Still it's not done yet and I think we treat this like a Cup Final. Win and we're through. Plenty of recovery time for Sunday no need for rotation - the best team for the best outcome.

  3. November 5, 2013  9:26 am by Eileen Fullen Reply

    Hoping for plenty of stardust tonight, can't wait for our Boys In Blue to send Man City on a memorable journey into the CL. Once again beautifully written David. Hopefully a night to remember

    • November 5, 2013  10:13 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Eileen - at the risk of being a partypooper I'll be happy with any sort of win and a clean bill of health. Obviously it'd be nice to punish the Russkies - or a proportion of them to be fair who are racist scum - with a Yaya hat-trick!

  4. November 5, 2013  10:14 am by Alan Baxter Reply

    I don't think MP will tinker with the starting line up too much tonight, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Costel may be a bit busier than Saturday but I reckon we'll win by two or more. oh, and I bet they still water the pitch!

    • November 5, 2013  12:19 pm by David Walker Reply

      Glug glug glug - maybe, but don't we'll be applying the Muscovite matt vinyl finish to the grass! Are you at match tonight?

      • November 5, 2013  12:50 pm by Alan Baxter Reply

        I'll be there in my newly purchased club coat, (as worn by MP) I probably won't have time to watch the shenanigans in City square though

        • November 6, 2013  11:47 pm by David Walker Reply

          I can only presume we didn't meet last night as we are now heading rapidly into Thursday morn. Sometime soon - may Spurs at home? If you want anything signing - other than a cheque - just say the word ;-)

  5. November 5, 2013  10:53 am by Graham Ward Reply

    Looking forward to this one....I think the only change from Saturday will be Kolarov in for Clichy, as alluded to before.
    Let's get this one won, 2-0 to City for me, although avoid defeat must be the prime consideration tonight.

    • November 5, 2013  12:20 pm by David Walker Reply

      If we have any aspirations to be a force in CL we have to put teams like these away - no messing and no excuses. Spasibo!

  6. November 5, 2013  5:03 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    As usual top piece David. Can't see anything but a City win tonight. Another 7-0 would be great but 1-0 will do.

    • November 5, 2013  6:26 pm by David Walker Reply

      My thinking entirely young Doug - 1-0 job done. That said it'll have taken nearly 4 hours to get to Etihad tonight so 4-0 would be good.

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