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Preview: Mourinho light in midfield but strong enough to take on CSKA in Moscow

CSKA Moscow -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League 2017/18

VEB Arena, Moscow, Russia

Wednesday 27th September 2017; KO 19:45 BST

Live on BT Sport HD in the United Kingdom

Manchester United face CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday evening, the second group stage match in the elite European competition this season. United beat FC Basel 3-0 at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, with the Russian side beating Benfica 2-1 in Lisbon. CSKA will be seeking a good start in Europa this season after having played 17 matches so far this season. Jose Mourinho’s side will be seeking just as good a start, aiming to have six points on the board by the close of play. United have had a great start to the season, sitting second in the Premier League after five wins, three of them 4-0 scorelines, and one draw in the league, a win in the Champions League a fortnight ago and a 4-1 victory over Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup last week.

Romelu Lukaku has scored eight goals in the eight matches he has played a part in, missing the Burton game last week, which shows his confidence is high. United have scored goals galore this season, from all over the pitch – meaning the team’s confidence will be sky-high too. Injuries are something Mourinho will have to content ahead of the CSKA match with Paul Pogba already out of action and Marouane Fellaini on the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury against Southampton at the weekend. Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones will be rested for this match, as the manager confirmed, which will see the likes of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof getting a chance to impress the manager, with both featuring in the midweek matches against Basel and Burton over the last fortnight. Mourinho, speaking about his past meetings with CSKA Moscow, said:

“I play against CSKA with Real Madrid, with Inter, with Chelsea and now with Manchester United, so it’s something normal in my Champions League career. To be honest, I always like to be back because it [Moscow] is a beautiful city. Every time I come it’s better and better and better so I have to say that it’s a pleasure. Opponents wise, I think it’s the best CSKA that I’m going to play against. I think it’s the best team that I face with CSKA as an opponent.”

Previous Matches: Manchester United unbeaten against CSKA Moscow; winning once in two matches in Russia

Manchester United and CSKA Moscow have played four competitive matches in the history of both clubs – the first match being played on the 21st October 2009, resulting in a 1-0 victory for United, courtesy of an Antonio Valencia strike in the last four minutes of the match. United have won twice and drawn twice, not losing to the Russia side, which is some good form, despite only four matches played. At Old Trafford on the 3rd November 2009, it was a 3-3 draw between the two sides with Michael Owen (29) and Paul Scholes (84) scoring goals which saw United come from behind, still 3-2 down with six minutes remaining, Georgi Schennikov scoring an own goal in the 90th minute to level the score. Back in the 2015/16 season, United were drawn with the Russian side in the group stages of the Champions League again, drawing 1-1 in Moscow, Anthony Martial scoring the goal, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney scoring that goal.

Form: CSKA Moscow could be the fitter team having played 17 matches this season; United have better results and are high in confidence

Manchester United started their season well, beating West Ham United and Swansea City with 4-0 scorelines, then beating Leicester City 2-0 ahead of the international break. Stoke City was United’s test immediately after the break, suffering a 2-2 draw. United then faces FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League, winning 3-0 before facing Everton in the league, winning 4-0 again. United saw fixtures coming thick and fast in September with the Carabao Cup coming into play with United facing Championship club Burton Albion, winning 4-1 and conceding the first goal at Old Trafford this season. United continued their unbeaten form with a 1-0 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday, not playing well but turning the 0-0 draw in the fixture last season in to a match which earned United another three points, keeping the chase on league leaders, Manchester City.

CSKA Moscow sits fourth in the Russian Premier League after a mixed season. For Viktor Goncharenko’s side, the season started on the 15th July with a 3-1 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala, followed by a 3-1 defeat to Lokomotiv Moscow then back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over SKA-Khabarovsk. A 2-1 defeat to Rubin Kazan was followed by back to back league victories, the same 2-1 scoreline against Tosno and Spartak Moscow. A 0-0 with Ural Yekaterinburg, followed by a 1-0 defeat to Akhmat Grozny came ahead of back to back wins again with a 1-0 victory over Amkar Perm and a 2-0 victory over Rostov. At the weekend, a 0-0 draw with Dynamo Moscow saw CSKA keep hold of fourth place for three successive matches. In the Champions League, CSKA had to qualify, beating AEK Athens 3-0 on aggregate, also beating Young Boys by the same aggregate scoreline to earn a place in the group stage. In the Russian Cup, CSKA were beaten 1-0 by Avangard Kursk at the round of 32 stage. A fortnight ago, CSKA beat Benfica 2-1 in the first group stage match of the season, a good start the Russia side will want to continue.

Team News: Plenty of absentees for Manchester United with injuries and rotation but Jose Mourinho is a man with a plan!

Manchester United have a mini injury crisis in midfield with Paul Pogba out with a hamstring injury, not knowing when he will return to action, Marouane Fellaini suffering an ankle injury away to Southampton on Saturday – not travelling to Moscow on Monday, and Michael Carrick also not travelling with the squad. Antonio Valencia will also miss the UEFA Champions League group stage match as he has been rested ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon. Jose Mourinho’s side will have enough players to face the Russian side with Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Joel Pereira all travelling to Moscow – perhaps some, or all will get a run out on Wednesday evening? In his press conference ahead of the match on Tuesday, Mourinho confirmed:

“I won’t have Fellaini, I won’t have Pogba, we won’t have Carrick, so all three midfield players that we lose for this match,” the boss told reporters. “So there are not many solutions, but we try not to focus on individual battles or in specific areas on the pitch. We try to focus on the globality [team as a whole] and we are going to have a team with quality, with balance, to try to win the match which is our objective.”

Predicted Starting XI: A strong side featuring Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to reign supreme in Moscow?

Match Prediction: Manchester United to leave the Russian capital with a smash and grab?

CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United

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