CSKA Moscow coach Leonid
Slutsky may have got his wish when the Russians were paired with
Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16
"I don't think anyone wants to face Barcelona because they
look almost unbeatable," Slutsky, whose team host the nine-times
European champions in the first leg at the Luzhniki Stadium on
Tuesday, said before the December draw.
"Against other teams you may have a chance," added the
40-year-old former amateur goalkeeper, dubbed the Russian
Mourinho by local media for his analytical approach, thorough
tactical preparation and attention to detail.
Nevertheless, Slutsky named the runaway La Liga leaders as
huge favourites against CSKA, playing their first competitive
game in almost two-and-a-half months.
To make the matters worse for the Russians, their current
team has little resemblance with the one that beat Inter Milan
2-1 in their final Group B match to secure a place in the first
Slutsky may have to hand starting roles to two debutants,
Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom and Nigeria striker Ahmed
Musa, after they were signed during the last transfer window.
The 19-year-old Musa, who joined from Dutch side VVV-Venlo,
will have big shoes to fill following the departure of Brazilian
Vagner Love, their talismanic forward who left for Rio de
Janeiro's Flamengo last month after spending seven seasons with
the army side and scoring the club's record 117 goals.
CSKA's Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda and Chile winger Mark
Gonzalez are also unlikely to feature in Tuesday's game as they
have not fully recovered from knee and hip surgery respectively.
If he plays, Musa will partner Ivory Coast's Seydou Doumbia - the Russian league's top scorer with 24 goals last year - in
CSKA's attacking formation.
The Russians have been concerned about Doumbia's lack of
match practice as the powerful striker had watched most of the
action during the recent Africa Cup of Nations from the bench.
However, CSKA's biggest worry is the goalkeeping position
with first-choice Igor Akinfeyev still out following knee
surgery and experienced Vladimir Gabulov joining big spenders
Anzhi Makhachkala during the winter break.
That leaves Slutsky with untested Sergei Chepchugov and
16-year-old Sergei Revyakin, both of whom have yet to play on
the international arena at the senior level, to face the Spanish
"Igor has been the main part of our team for many years,
he's almost indispensable, but we'll have to find a way to
overcome his absence," the coach said.
CSKA will also miss defender Kirill Nababkin and midfielder
Pavel Mamayev through suspension for the first leg.
DI MARIA SIDELINED
Real, who have won 27 of their last 30 matches in all
competitions suffering only one league defeat against Barcelona,
and a draw and a defeat against their arch-rivals which put them
out of the King's Cup last month, also have several key players
Winger Angel di Maria, who returned from injury and scored a
goal against Racing Santander on Saturday, has suffered a
bruised muscle, Hamit Altintop has a torn calf muscle while
fellow midfielder Lassana Diarra is out with a back complaint.
"Now we turn to the Champions League and we must focus on
the match against CSKA," Mourinho said after his team crushed
"Everyone is pleased, we have two days to recover, and we
are a happy group. We have a long journey but happiness helps
make miracles. We are very motivated even though we know it will
be difficult in Moscow."
Meanwhile, Brazilian Kaka has been concerned about the
weather in the Russian capital.
"The cold in Moscow is a negative factor, but it will also
affect them, even if they are more used to it," he said.
"And then the return leg is at home for us. You have to
remember that this is a two-legged tie."
CSKA Moscow: 1-Sergei Chepchugov; 24-Vasily Berezutsky,
4-Sergei Ignashevich, 6-Alexei Berezutsky, 42-Georgy
Shechennikov; 3-Pontus Wernbloom, 22-Yevgeny Aldonin, 21-Zoran
Tosic, 10-Alan Dzagoyev; 18-Ahmed Musa, 26-Sekou Oliseh.
Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 3-Pepe,
4-Sergio Ramos, 12-Marcelo; 6-Sami Khedira, 14-Xabi Alonso;
10-Mesut Ozil, 8-Kaka, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 9-Karim Benzema.
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