We’re really not here! – CSKA Moscow v Man City

CSKA Moscow have already experienced the ‘Sound of Silence’ in this season’s Champions League as they go into tonight’s crunch Group E encounter with Manchester City.

The repugnant Russians were forced by UEFA to play Bayern Munich behind closed doors in the Arena Khimki last month, as punishment for the antics of their yobbish, racist chanting fans.

Moving on up - City prepare to progress In the UCL in Moscow last season. Courtesy@MCFC

Moving on up – City prepare to progress In the UCL in Moscow last season. Courtesy@MCFC

Despite losing narrowly to Bayern, it could be argued that the former Soviet Army’s favourite club has a distinct advantage over City when it comes to adapting to this evening’s eerie and surreal occasion.

But before Vladimir Putin’s pugilists get ahead of themselves they should think on…Manchester City have been performing before crowds of ‘invisible men’ claiming ‘We’re not, we’re not really here…’ for nearly two decades.

With a ‘crowd’ of approximately 575, comprising UEFA officials, CSKA and City delegations plus a few ball boys/girls in the 18,600 capacity stadium, it’ll be more like a training session than a full blown, mission critical Champions League tie.

Same again please - City celebrate scoring in their 2-1 win against CSKA last season. Courtesy@MCFC

Same again please – City celebrate scoring in their 2-1 win against CSKA last season. Courtesy@MCFC

The malevolent Muscovites are also banned from the return fixture in Manchester on Bonfire Night, prompting the enlightened commercial brains at the Etihad to offer home fans a buy one-get- one free deal on the £25-a-time tickets for November 5th.

Doubtless the City haters in the media will contrive to mock the fan-friendly initiative, but the enterprising marketing team at the Etihad can turn a deaf ear and ignore the imbeciles who infest the malicious anti-City press and pundits corp.

Of course it’s the 11 to 14 individuals who take to the field of play in City colours who carry more sway than any number of thousands who populate the terraces.

Tactics - MP must ensure City are not overrun in midfield. Courtesy@MCFC

Tactics – MP must ensure City are not overrun in midfield. Courtesy@MCFC

Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical acumen and adaptability will be under scrutiny as City seek the vital win to keep alive their Champions League aspirations.

City have found themselves outnumbered in midfield against both Bayern Munich and AS Roma in their opening two matches in Group E, as Pellegrini has opted for two distinct strikers in a 4-4-2 formation.

With so many of City’s European opponents lining up in a 4-5-1 – or a derivation thereof – Pellegrini’s men have surrendered midfield control far too often. It cost them against Barcelona in the knock-out stages last season. It simply has to stop.

Big influence - Yaya was racially abused in Moscow last time City played CSKA. Courtesy @MCFC

Big influence – Yaya was racially abused in Moscow last time City played CSKA. Courtesy @MCFC

Pellegrini has a decent Champions League pedigree having taken Villarreal to the semi finals and quarter finals and, more latterly, taken unfancied Malaga to within seconds of a semi final, before being cheated by two dubious Borussia Dortmund ‘goals’ in added time.

With Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando all fit, it gives the City boss the chance to set his team out to optimise the ball winning capabilities of the two Brazilians, while giving Yaya licence to go forward.

David Silva is a given as City’s main creative outlet, albeit he was below par against Spurs at the weekend, having suffered a recent illness during the international break.

All-action James Milner must surely start, thus facilitating Aleksander Kolarov at left back with his sharpshooting ‘AK47’ crosses on which Edin Dzeko can feed and help City secure the victory.

Well suited - Kolarov could prosper as a supply line to Dzeko in Moscow. Courtesy@MCFC

Well suited – Kolarov could prosper as a supply line to Dzeko in Moscow. Courtesy@MCFC

The overlapping prowess and all-round play of Pablo Zabaleta will provide a threat down City’s right flank and Vincent Kompany and superfast Eliaquim Mangala should provide the central defensive partnership.

CSKA striker Ahmed Musa has taunted City claiming the English champions are very weak in defence. We’ll see at 17.00hrs today how he and his team mates can exploit any such frailty.

City will miss the experience, guile and eye for goal of the injured Frank Lampard who has been left behind in Manchester to have treatment on the thigh injury sustained against Spurs.

Super Frankie would surely have played some part, probably coming off the subs bench, in the sub-zero Russian capital. Such a role could fall to another City superman, Sergio Aguero.

Cutting a dash - Sergio could be on the bench in Russia tonight. Courtesy@MCFC

Cutting a dash – Sergio could be on the bench in Russia tonight. Courtesy@MCFC

It might seem bizarre to not start with Aguero following his four goal feast on Saturday lunchtime, but it makes a lot of sense, both tactically and from a squad rotation perspective.

One of City’s principal forwards has to be sacrificed if Pellegrini is going to play a five man midfield. Dzeko is fresh from not playing at the weekend and provides an aerial threat.

Equally if things aren’t going to plan, the introduction of Aguero can easily change the course of the match and get City back on track.

Anything less than a win tonight will make it devilishly difficult for City to reach the last 16 knockout stage.

Contrastingly maximum points in Moscow and in the return leg a fortnight later will set City up for a barnstorming night with Bayern in Manchester on November 25th.

Mission Moscow - Manuel and Pablo need to slay CSKA tonight. Courtesy@MCFC

Mission Moscow – Manuel and Pablo need to slay CSKA tonight. Courtesy@MCFC

The back-to-back clashes between Roma and Munich will help clarify what City must do to climb out of Group E, but it’ll be academic if they cannot repeat last season’s win in Moscow.

With a minimal attendance it clearly won’t be a case of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ this evening in the Khimki Arena.

But City must hit the right notes if they are to keep the evocative ‘Champions League’ theme – UEFA’s adaptation of Handel’s ‘Coronation Anthem’ – reverberating in their season well into 2015.

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

18 Comments

  1. October 21, 2014  10:08 am by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Got to be 5 in the middle & 1up front Dzeko with Sergio on the bench if we need him. Milner & Fernando a must. Defense got to be at there best tonight nothing but a win will do. #TrustOurMp.

    • October 21, 2014  10:19 am by David Walker Reply

      My thinking entirely...but then again you knew that already! ;-)

  2. October 21, 2014  10:30 am by Richard Cooper Reply

    Must win this game tonight and it doesn't have to be pretty - just do it !
    I won't go down the "drone" joke road from last weeks Serbia -V- Albania game as I don't think Phil Neville was at the Spurs game even if a drone was at the Etihad

  3. October 21, 2014  10:45 am by Harry Haller Reply

    Great article David and its time to give it back to CSKA Mafia's racist knuckle draggers big time.

    Come on you blues!

    • October 21, 2014  12:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      One gets the impression you're not overly fond of our Muscovite brethren? I have met a few pleasant Russians but they are far outweighed by the majority who appear arrogant, ignorant and a thoroughly obnoxious bunch!

  4. October 21, 2014  10:48 am by Bacta Front Reply

    Nice article David

    I think you may be correct with the starting line line up that MP had in his mind before Saturday. Sergios 4 goal haul makes him hard to rest and will challenge Manuels original thinking. Dzeko for me has to play on current form but at the expense of Sergio? I have my doubts.
    This means sticking with 442 and that's where MPs decision will be crucial.
    He is in a no win situation, if he stays with 442, which should be ok against inferior opposition, he will receive massive criticism should City not get a win. A change to 451 is the safer option but will mean he is not only unable to accommodate all of our top match winners but also go against his preferred style in our most important match so far this season.
    But I guess that's why we pay him the Big Bucks!

    • October 21, 2014  12:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      I guess so. Nice precis of MP's tactical dilemma. Dzeko supported by Yaya and Silva should be a big enough attacking threat, supplemented by Milner and Kolarov on the flanks. If we fail to win tonight it will be a very poor show!.

  5. October 21, 2014  10:55 am by Andy Devereux Reply

    Agree David must be 5 in midfield and must be 3 pts. Personally i think we'll see both.

    • October 21, 2014  12:42 pm by David Walker Reply

      'Hear hear' as less than trusted MPs have been known to utter!

  6. October 21, 2014  11:11 am by Graham Ward Reply

    This will be the strangest game City have played in recent times. Agree with the comments already expressed, five in the middle and one up front, the first proper outing for the template we all thought City would use this European season.
    It's thought this one will be played in sub zero conditions, so I wonder if Aguero will get a run out only if it's absolutely necessary?

    • October 21, 2014  12:41 pm by David Walker Reply

      If we can win whilst keeping Sergio out of harms way then all the better. Having no racist thugs egging on the home side has to be to our advantage, no matter how surreal the surroundings.

  7. October 21, 2014  11:40 am by Carl Horse Reply

    Mathematically, Moscow can still go through... So they will be going for a win too. If we play 4-4-2 we keep the game expansive, can accomadate Aguero and Dzeko and will carry more of an attacking threat. Albeit at the cost of possession of the ball. I fear if we play 5 in midfield the game will get bogged down and we may leave it too late.

    But I trust our manager to make the right call as his credentials in this competition are second to none.

    • October 21, 2014  12:39 pm by David Walker Reply

      I disagree on the tactical front but I agree to trust our MP, he gets it right far more often than wrong. The acid test will be three points by early evening GMT. Thanks for commenting.

  8. October 21, 2014  11:49 am by susan richardson Reply

    Must win. Morally these neanderthals shouldn't even be in the competition

  9. October 21, 2014  12:44 pm by David Kelly Reply

    Good article Mr Walker, as long as that Boyata (sub) does not get a look in, also as long as Dzeko tracks back when needed. CTID

    • October 21, 2014  12:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'll happily endorse those sentiments regarding Edin and Dead Rick!

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