Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Champions League
clash between CSKA Moscow
and Manchester United
at Arena Khimki. Group B is the most finely balanced one in the tournament at the moment, with all four teams level on both points and goal difference after two games. Qualification is still wide open, then, and tonight's game could have a big say on who progresses to the next round. Let's start with a look at the teams...
CSKA STARTING XI: Akinfeev; Fernandes, Berezutski, Ignashevich, Schennikov; Tosic, Wernbloom, Eremenko, Musa; Dzagoev; Doumbia
CSKA SUBS: Chepchugov, A Berezutski, Panchenko, Nababkin, Cauna, Milanov, Golovin
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo; Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin; Lingard, Herrera, Martial; Rooney
MAN UTD SUBS: Romero, Blind, Darmian, Carrick, Mata, Fellaini, Memphis
What can we make of those two teams, then? Well, the home side make just the one change from their weekend victory over Ural, and it is a name that United fans may be familiar with who comes into the starting lineup. Dzagoev replaces Panchenko in the side, with the latter dropping to the bench and a slight change in tactics from Leonid Slutsky
that should see Dzagoev operate just behind the striker. The reason he may be familiar to United fans in particular is because he scored against them at Old Trafford in the most recent meeting between these two sides, back in 2009.
The main danger man for CSKA tonight is expected to be Seydou Doumbia
, though, with the Ivory Coast international in fine form at the moment. He scored twice in CSKA' most recent European outing and now has seven goals in his last six games for club and country, so United will need to keep a particularly close eye on him. He is expected to lead the line on his own, with the likes of Musa - who also scored against PSV - and Dzagoev providing support.
In midfield there is another name that United fans may remember in the form of Zoran Toric, who actually played for the Red Devils briefly during the 2009-10 season. Don't fret if you can't remember him United fans - he did only make five sub appearances for the club before moving on to pastures new. Even so, it is a special occasion for him tonight. Also in midfield is Wernbloom, who is in good scoring form having netted in both of CSKA's last two games.
It is an experienced defence for CSKA with the likes of Ignashevich and Berezutski back there, while between the sticks is the veteran shot-stopper Igor Akinfeev, who it seems has been around forever. His record in this competition leaves a lot to be desired, though. He has not kept a Champions League clean sheet since November 2006, when CSKA held Arsenal - who of course had finished as runners-up the year before - to a goalless draw in North London. Akinfeev has played in 33 Champions League games since that night, and conceded at least once in every single one.
The man who most of the onus will be on to continue that run is Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney, who still hasn't really got going yet this season. He did end his Goodison Park hoodoo at the weekend, though, scoring at his former ground for the first time in eight years, while also ending an 11-month wait for an away Premier League goal in the process. He also has an away hat-trick to his name already in this season's competition, during the win over Club Brugge, and now finds himself just two goals short of Ruud van Nistelrooy's club-record 38 European strikes.
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Perhaps the standout inclusion in the United side, however, is Jesse Lingard - something of a shock selection from Louis van Gaal
. He replaces Juan Mata in the starting lineup, which is even more of a shock considering the form the Spaniard has been in this season. Van Gaal insisted that he would not rest players ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby, but that change certainly suggests that he has one eye on the clash with Man City this weekend.
That is one of two changes to the side that cruised past Everton on Saturday, with the other also coming on the right flank as Valencia - who has scored in every past meeting between these two sides - replacing Darmian in defence. Aside from that, Van Gaal has resisted the urge to tinker with his back four again, which means that Daley Blind is once again forced to settle for a place on the bench having been displaced by the fit-again Phil Jones alongside Smalling.
In midfield, Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin continue despite slight concerns over the fitness of the former, with Carrick forced to settle for a place on the bench once more. Alongside Lingard in the trio behind Rooney is Herrera, given a more advanced role again, and Martial, who has gone off the boil slightly since his barnstorming start to life at the club. The teenager's tally of four goals in his first eight games is still better than was perhaps expected immediately after his arrival, but he is now four without a goal. Memphis Depay, meanwhile, remains among the subs.
United will enter this match as favourites to pick up all three points, but CSKA will be quietly confident that they can give Louis van Gaal
's side a good game tonight. The Russians currently sit third in Group B but, in truth, that doesn't mean anything with the way things have panned out so far. It is almost like starting afresh now with every side level, and a win tonight would put Slutsky's side in a good position - certainly a better one than they might have expected halfway through the group stages.
It is fair to say that Group B is not the most star-studded collection of teams in the competition, but even so CSKA problem emerged as the underdogs in the pool after the draw was made. Manchester United were immediately installed as favourites, while Wolfsburg - despite the loss of Kevin de Bruyne, were also fancied to go through. PSV will certainly feel that they are in with a shout as well, but CSKA have shown over the opening two games that they are very much in the mix too. There shouldn't be much to separate them from the other three teams in the group.
This is already CSKA's seventh match of this season's competition having been forced to start in the third qualifying round, and it hasn't all been plain sailing for them up to this point. They edged past Sparta Prague at the first hurdle in an entertaining 5-4 aggregate victory, while the first leg against Sporting Lisbon in their playoff left them trailing 2-1 and needing a comeback. Come back they did, though, winning 3-1 in the second leg to seal a 4-3 aggregate win and book their place in the group stages.
They held their own against Wolfsburg for long spells on matchday one, but ultimately Julian Draxler's goal five minutes before half time was enough for the German side to pick up the points. PSV, who began with a win over United, were next up here at Arena Khimki, and the first half could not have gone much better for CSKA. They raced into a 3-0 lead inside 36 minutes and looked to be cruising to the points. PSV made them sweat with a second-half fightback as Maxime Lestienne scored twice in less than 10 minutes, but the hosts held on for a 3-2 victory.
That result made it five home games without defeat in the Champions League, a run that stretches back to September 2014. Indeed, only Bayern Munich and United's local rivals Manchester City have beaten CSKA here in this competition since November 2011, during which time they have held the likes of Real Madrid, Roma and Man City again. Big teams visiting is no new thing for CSKA, then, and they will be confident that they can utilise their home advantage in tricky conditions again tonight.
That draw against City was a dramatic affair as well, with CSKA coming from two goals down to clinch a point, before winning on the return to Manchester for their first victory on home soil. Overall, though, they have won just three of their last 14 Champions League matches. Things have been better domestically, where they remain unbeaten this season, dropping just four points on their way to the top of the table. They already lead second-place Lokomotiv Moscow by five points, while they are 10 clear of defending champions Zenit after just 12 games.
CSKA are unbeaten in all competitions since the defeat to Wolfsburg on matchday one, winning five of the six outings since then. They have not lost a domestic match since April, when they were beaten by Kuban Krasnodar in the cup semi-finals. At home, they are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions, while they have only lost once in front of their own fans since November 1, 2014.
It will not be an easy task for Manchester United, then, but they will have fond memories of Moscow having enjoyed one of the greatest nights in the club's history here seven years ago. The 2008 Champions League final was held in Moscow, with United appearing in the showpiece event for the first time since that memorable win in 1999. They would go on to make it to the final in 2009 and 2011 as well, but 2008 was their third and most recent triumph in the competition as they beat Chelsea in a penalty shootout that saw John Terry slip while taking what could have been the winning spot kick. Rooney and Carrick are the only survivors from that team in tonight's squad, although now-assistant manager Ryan Giggs also played.
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That all seems like a long time ago for a club still looking to re-establish themselves in the competition following a year away, though. United have made a shaky start on their return to the big time, with matchday one's defeat to PSV being a particular low point. Not only did they squander the lead to lose 2-1 in Eindhoven, they also lost Luke Shaw to that horror leg break on a miserable night for the club. They did bounce back against Wolfsburg, however, this time coming from behind themselves to win 2-1 thanks to goals from Mata and Smalling.
Like CSKA, United also had to do some work to get through to the group stages, although Van Gaal's side did theirs with minimum fuss. They got a rather kind draw against Club Brugge in the playoffs and, while the Belgians held their own for long spells at Old Trafford, a late Marouane Fellaini header handed the Red Devils a 3-1 lead to take back to Brugge. United may have thought that they were in for a tough match there, but they ran out comfortable 4-0 winners thanks largely to a Rooney hat-trick.
They have lost their last three away games in the Champions League proper, however, and that poor run extends to just one win in their last eight on the road in this competition. That victory was a thumping 5-0 triumph over Leverkusen, but their record on their travels in recent times is surprisingly poor for a club of their stature. They have drawn three and lost four in that time, and Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are the only real 'giants' of European football that they have played in that time.
Domestically, things are looking positive again for United as they returned to winning ways with an impressive 3-0 victory over Everton at the weekend. They did not have a good record at Goodison going into the match, but two goals in the first half all but wrapped up the win against an out-of-sorts Toffees team. Schneiderlin, Herrera and, most notably, Rooney were on the scoresheet in that match as United provided the perfect response to their capitulation in the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal before the international break.
Speaking of Arsenal, United remain level on points with the Gunners in the Premier League table, with only goal difference putting Arsene Wenger's men ahead of the Red Devils. Just two points separate United from league leaders Man City who, as I have already mentioned, they face in a huge match this Sunday. Tonight is actually the start of a busy period for Van Gaal's side, who will play four games in the next 10 games, with Middlesbrough in the League Cup and then Crystal Palace in the league to come after Sunday's derby.
That blip against Arsenal aside, though, United are in good form going into that run. They have won five of their last six matches in all competitions, scoring 14 goals in the process. Indeed, for a side who have had their attacking credentials questioned at times, they have scored three goals or more in seven of their last 12 games in all competitions - not a bad record at all. Their away record is a little less impressive, though, with three defeat in their last five on the road.
PREDICTION: We're 10 minutes away from kickoff at Arena Khimki, which means that it is time for a prediction! This is a fairly tough one to call, with a lot of different factors needing to be taken into consideration. United's squad, on paper at least, is the better of the two, but their away form has been shaky under Van Gaal. The conditions are also likely to be difficult for the visitors on a freezing cold night in Moscow. I wouldn't be too surprised to see this one finish all square, but I'm going to back United to eke out a 2-1 victory.
These two sides have only met each other twice before, when they were drawn together at this stage of the 2009-10 Champions League campaign. United edged the double-header overall, but CSKA came within a whisker of winning at Old Trafford in the most recent meeting. They led 3-1 with just six minutes of normal time to go, but Paul Scholes pulled one back before Antonio Valencia
scored in the second minute of stoppage time to rescue a draw for Ferguson's United. Valencia was also on the scoresheet late in the reverse fixture, getting the only goal of the game with four minutes left to give United a 1-0 win in the away tie - played in a different stadium to tonight's match.
United do have a surprisingly poor record against Russian teams down the years, though. They have only won one of their last seven matches against Russian opposition, home and away, despite being one of the dominant forces in European football for so long. As we have already mentioned, CSKA have picked up some good results against big teams in their own back yard too, so Van Gaal may well be content with coming away with a draw tonight.
There should be goals on offer for United tonight, though, so if they can keep a second consecutive clean sheet then a win could be in the offing. CSKA themselves have struggled to keep opposition at bay this season, managing just one clean sheet in their last eight matches, during which time they have conceded 13 goals (although they have also scored 17).
The players are out, the Champions League anthem has been played, and the crowd are more than ready for this one. We're just minutes away from kickoff at the Arena Khimki.
KICKOFF: Here we go then! Manchester United get us under on a freezing night in Moscow.
A nervy start from CSKA as they carelessly give the ball away inside their own half twice in quick succession. Neither comes to anything, but it isn't the start that Slutsky would have wanted.
Low-key start to this match, it must be said. Both sides look like they just feeling each other out in these opening exchanges.
United have seen more of the ball so far in this match, and a decent amount of that has come inside the CSKA half, but when they approach the final third they have quickly lost possession.
Martial has tried a couple of dribbles down his left flank already tonight, but he has been well dealt with so far. Neither side have managed to really string a good number of passes together yet.
A bit of space opens up for United as Rooney wins the ball before feeding it to Schweinsteiger, who turns towards goal to escape his marker. He in turn plays it out to Martial, but once again he is tackled when trying to cut inside. He looks at the ref asking for a penalty, but on first viewing the ref is right to shake his head.
The first shot of the night comes from Martial, although it may be a bit kind to count it. The youngster doesn't get any power behind his effort whatsoever and it dribbles tamely wide of the target.
CSKA get in behind United for the first time tonight as Mario Fernandes makes his way forward to latch on to a clipped pass over the top. He pulls the ball back towards Doumbia, but Jones steps in. The chance is not completely gone, however, and Tosic picks the ball up before seeing his shot deflected a couple of yards wide of the far post.
PENALTY TO CSKA!
GOAL! CSKA 1-0 Manchester United (Seydou Doumbia)
First blood goes to CSKA Moscow tonight, despite De Gea's best efforts. The penalty is awarded as Fernandes gets forward again and flicks the ball over Martial, who sticks his hand up and gets a touch with it. Fernandes is still able to get a shot away, which is well saved by De Gea, but the referee pulls play back to award the spot kick. Up steps Roman Eremenko
, but the midfielder sees his spot kick brilliantly saved onto the post by De Gea, who also manages to sweep it away from the first onrushing attacker with his feet. It arrives straight to Doumbia, however, and the in-form strike buries the rebound home having reacted quicker than the United defenders.
There is an argument to be made for United's point of view that Fernandes played advantage with his shot, but you have to question what Martial was doing with his hand in the air there. For me, the referee is right to point to the spot. From that point, United's defenders perhaps should have reacted quicker to the save, while De Gea was helpless to prevent Doumbia from tucking the rebound away.
YELLOW CARD! Anthony Martial
also picked up a yellow card for his role in that penalty, incidentally.
United will have been relatively content with their start to the match. They weren't looking particularly dangerous going forward, but they had settled quickly and were working towards silencing the crowd. The fans are back in full voice now, though, while CSKA are playing with a little more confidence too.
Mario Fernandes has had a really good start to this match for CSKA so far. He is clearly eager to get forward at any available opportunity, which in turn is helping to keep Martial pinned back too.
Very nearly a chance for Musa to break through down the middle as he pounces on to a loose ball before looking to use his pace against Smalling and Jones. Smalling steps across to block off the man well, though, allowing the ball to run harmlessly through to De Gea.
Another run from Fernandez down the right and this time the Brazilian drills a low ball right across the face of goal. Jones and Valencia don't look like they want to touch it as it spins in the six-yard box before going behind for what should be a corner, but is given as a goal kick.
Really good play from Lingard as he dances past a few red shirts before eventually being forced wide and to the byline, taking the ball out of play. That is about the most threatening that United have looked so far tonight, though.
SAVE! Brilliant from Musa. The ball is played into him and he immediately turns away to leave Valencia behind. He advances forward down the middle before taking his shot early, looking to catch De Gea off his line. It looks for one moment as though it will loop over the keeper and in, but De Gea gets a crucial hand to it.
We've had more than half an hour now, and CSKA are fully deserving of their lead. They have looked dangerous almost every time they have come forward, while United themselves have not even threatened to really test Akinfeev.
Akinfeev is finally called into action here as a low ball is fed towards the near post for the run of Rooney, but the veteran keeper is quick to close the already difficult angle and Rooney can't squeeze the ball past his opposing skipper.
CSKA are a very organised outfit, with so much experience throughout their side. That is helping them to just frustrate United who, despite having the lion's share of possession, just can't find a way through at the moment.
Fernandes makes his first mistake of the night as he misjudges a ball, getting caught underneath it and allowing Martial to take it down and get in behind. The youngster tries to play one in with the outside of his foot, but CSKA eventually get it clear.
SHOT! Finally United have a proper sight of goal, although even this is a fairly speculative effort as Rooney lets fly from range and see his strike drop a few yards wide of the far post.
Berezutski has signalled at the bench, seemingly saying that he needs to come off, although it is not exactly clear why. He is moving alright and keeping Rooney subdued, but there was a definite signal to the sidelines. One to keep an eye on.
CSKA SUB: There is the change, although only the eagle-eyed may spot it as Vasili Berezutski is replaced by twin brother Alexei Berezutski.
United have had 62% possession in this first half, but they simply have not used it anywhere near well enough. CSKA deserve credit for the way they have played, but United have offered very little themselves. It has been uninspiring stuff from the visitors.
There will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: CSKA Moscow 1-0 Manchester United
Not exactly the opening 45 minutes that Louis van Gaal would have wanted, that. Manchester United go into the break a goal behind to CSKA Moscow, and they don't deserve anything more in truth. They have enjoyed significantly more of the ball than their hosts, but have offered minimal threat going forward and look to be short of ideas against a well-drilled and organised CSKA outfit.
The goal came after just 15 minutes, although David de Gea
did his very best to keep them at bay. Martial was penalised for a careless handball inside the area, which left the referee little choice but to point to the spot. Eremenko stepped up only to see his effort tipped onto the post by De Gea. However, the keeper was helpless to prevent Doumbia tucking away the rebound from close range after the in-form striker had reacted quicker than the United defenders.
The closest we have come to seeing a goal other than that came from Musa, who span away from Valencia before letting fly from range having seen De Gea off his line. His effort was a very good one and looked to be looping over the keeper, but once again it was De Gea to the rescue as he clawed the dangerous strike away.
Aside from that, there haven't really been any other clear chances for either side. It is the hosts who have looked most like scoring the game's second goal, however, with Fernandes in particular causing problems with his overlapping runs down the right flank. United simply haven't been able to cope with the Brazilian full-back at times and, coupled with the pace of Musa and the movement of Doumbia, CSKA look capable of troubling United.
That is more than what can be said for United. The only hint of an opening the visitors have had came through a speculative Rooney effort from range that was never really troubling Akinfeev. The veteran keeper did have to reacted quickly to a deflected cross that almost handed Rooney a chance moments before that, but aside from that he has been a spectator so far. The experience of CSKA Moscow is keeping United at bay, with Ignashevich playing like a Rolls Royce at the heart of the defence.
KICKOFF: We're back underway in Moscow, and the first thing to tell you is that there has been a change at the break. It comes, unsurprisingly, from United as Marouane Fellaini replaces Schweinsteiger.
An early sight of goal for United as Lingard cuts inside and slides a pass through to Rooney, but the flag is up against the skipper. Even so, that is more positive than anything they created in the first half.
UPDATE: There has been a goal in the other Group B match taking place tonight, with Bas Dost giving Wolfsburg the lead right at the start of the second half against PSV Eindhoven.
There have been a few more positive signs for United in this second half. They have at least started to get Rooney a little more involved, when he barely saw the ball in the first half, and you feel that getting it into the skipper is the key for the visitors.
Another aspect United need to improve on is the pace at which they play the game - and that isn't the first time that has been a problem this season, They have been so pedestrian in this match, particularly in comparison to the lively hosts.
PENALTY SHOUT! CSKA have a good shout for a second penalty tonight as Rojo completely miscues a header, closing his eyes and losing track of the ball. As a result, it hits his hand, but the referee says no.
United are never going to break through CSKA's strict defensive banks unless they speed up their passing. The hosts are very disciplined at the back and can simply crab across the pitch when United pass it side to side with such little pace.
United have a rare shot... but I think that's all I should probably say about it. The ball drops to Herrera around 25 yards from goal, but his first-time volley is up into Row Z.
We've had an hour of this match now, and still United have offered very little to shout about. It is all too slow, and CSKA are dealing with it far too easily.
CHANCE! Finally United manage to break through the CSKA defence as the ball is fed in towards Rooney inside the box. The skipper gets in front of his man and goes for goal, but it is relatively simple for Akinfeev. By far United's best moment of the game, though.
This is a little more like it from the visitors! Again Rooney gets in behind the defence, but with the angle against him he needs to look for support in the middle. He sees Fellaini lurching into the box and tries to stand the ball up to him, but Akinfeev claims it well.
This is comfortably United's best spell of the match as they begin to apply pressure for the first time. The latest attack comes to an end when Lingard is denied a good chance by the offside flag, but they will be encouraged by the last five minutes or so.
MAN UTD SUB: The visitors make the second change of the match as Daley Blind replaces Rojo in a straight swap at left-back.
SAVE! Quick break from CSKA and they test De Gea again as this time Eremenko fires one towards goal. He hits it without the outside of the boot, but De Gea holds on well.
GOAL! CSKA 1-1 Man Utd (Anthony Martial)
It is all square in Moscow as United make the most of their recent improvement in this match! It is Martial who gets it, with Valencia overlapping down the right before sending a cross into the middle. Martial had just hung back in the area and was able to come onto the ball, steering his header in off the post. It wasn't the most powerful header, but it was perfectly directed and Akinfeev could not reach it.
It was the hosts who looked dangerous down the right flank in the first half, but right now it is United's right that is giving them joy. Valencia gets forward again and puts another cross into the middle that Fellaini meets, but his header lacks the power to trouble Akinfeev.
Suddenly, this match has a completely different complexion to it. United are looking more confident, while the swagger CSKA played with in the first half is lacking now. As things stand, you'd have to say that this is a better result for the visitors.
The hosts win a corner and swing it deep towards the back post that Berezutski gets his head to. It is a difficult one for him to make anything of, though, and Martial lets it go through for a goal kick.
Still United are controlling the vast majority of the possession here, but that goal takes a bit of the urgency out of what they need to do. Suddenly the pace of their play will be nowhere as frustrating for Van Gaal, but they still haven't played very well tonight.
It will be interesting to see whether CSKA really go for this in the final 15 minutes. A draw would leave them needing something from away trips to United or PSV in all likelihood, while victory would ease those requirements and keep them joint top of the standings.
To go for it, I suppose CSKA need the ball. United are passing it about comfortably at the moment, and the pace and verve with which CSKA were attacking when they won it back in the first half is certainly lacking right now.
Good play from Jones as he steps in to intercept a pass when CSKA had a chance to break before striding forward from defence and eventually winning his side a corner.
MAN UTD SUB: A third and final change for the visitors sees Lingard replaced by Memphis Depay.
YELLOW CARD! Herrera goes into the referee's book for a tactical challenge on Musa to prevent the pacey attacker from launching a counter-attack.
A good chance for United to threaten a winner here as they win a free kick in a good crossing position. Rooney is standing over it, but his delivery is too long for Fellaini.
CSKA SUB: The hosts make their second change of the night, and it is an attacking one from Slutsky as Kirill Panchenko replaces Eremenko.
CHANCE! Very nearly a big chance for United to grab the winner. It is weak defending from Tosic to allow Memphis to skip past him and swing a cross towards the back post that Martial knocks back in to Fellaini. The Belgian would have a simple finish from close range, but Akinfeev makes a crucial interception.
CSKA SUB: The final change for the hosts sees Dzagoev replaced by Aleksandrs Cauna.
It is United who are applying most of the late pressure here as we enter the dying stages of this match. A win here would be a very good - if flattering - result for Van Gaal's side.
YELLOW CARD! Fellaini is the latest to go into the book, again for a cynical trip and he brought down Tosic.
There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this match.
FULL TIME: CSKA Moscow 1-1 Manchester United
It is honours even at Arena Khimki, then, as Manchester United leave Moscow with a point having come from behind to draw with CSKA 1-1. The hosts had the better of things in the opening 45 minutes and took a deserved lead into half time courtesy of Doumbia's goal after De Gea had saved Eremenko's penalty. United levelled things up 20 minutes into the second period, however, as Martial steered a header from Valencia's cross in off the post.
That is all we have time for this evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Group B clash as CSKA Moscow and Manchester United play out a 1-1 draw on a freezing night in Russia. I will leave you with our match report
, and be sure to stick around for reaction, analysis and player ratings. We're back with Europa League action tomorrow night, so check in with us for that too. From me, though, it is goodbye for now!