Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow – Champions League Group E.
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: Wednesday, 5 November
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Sunday’s win over United may not have been as comfortable as we would have liked, but it will have done the squad the world of good. The second-half collapse in Moscow last time we played CSKA hit the players hard – the defeats at West Ham and at home to Newcastle in the League Cup proved that – so a win against our rivals, however nervous it was, is just what they needed.
And a win in this one would surely restore confidence completely. If City can beat CSKA Moscow on Wednesday, and Bayern Munich can do us a favour in the group’s other game against Roma, then we will be just about in the driving seat to qualify for the last-16, a situation that seemed highly-unlikely after the 2-2 in Moscow on Matchday 3.
Manuel Pellegrini was joined by Fernandinho for Tuesday’s pre-match press conference, and he, as ever, appeared relaxed, despite the enormity of the game.
“I think it is a very important game but it is not a death game because until [it’s mathematically impossible], you can continue. But it is a very important game. We must win this game because we have just two points and we have three games to play and it is very important to have more points.
“We will consider it not a final game but a very, very important game.”
City, you feel, need a big performance. This is a game that matters, a game where the pressure is well and truly on. If the players can raise their performance level for this and claim three points, maybe some self-belief, which has been sorely lacking in the competition this season, will return.
But Pellegrini hit back when his side were accused of lacking self-belief, saying: “No, I don’t think so. Last year we were the club that qualified with the biggest amount of points every time with 15 points.
“What happened this year in the three games of Champions League, we have time to arrange it and I am sure we are going to arrange it.”
CSKA go into the match bottom of the group and having suffered a defeat on Saturday to Zenit St Petersburg, leaving them seven points behind them in the Russian league. City simply have to win.
Pellegrini is without David Silva, Frank Lampard and Aleksandar Kolarov, who is out for a month with a calf problem, and Eliaquim Mangala is a doubt with a stiff thigh.
“Mangala has just stiffness in his thigh so he is in the squad list,” Pellegrini said. “Kolarov has an important muscle injury in his calf so he will be at least one month. Well, I am not a doctor but I suppose that. Frank, I think he will be fit next week.”
Fernandinho was quizzed about his role in the side. Having been a regular and one of City’s outstanding performers last season, his form has been patchy this term, with some pointing towards the World Cup semi-final, where he was part of the Brazil team beaten 7-1 by Germany, as a reason for his deterioration. But he said the defeat to Germany was soon forgotten.
“I think it is past already, “ the midfielder said. “I felt very bad for two weeks, the first month after the World Cup but when I came back to Man City I just put my head to the Premier League and Champions League and the World Cup stays in the past.
“Now I think just about Man City and try to give my best performance and try and do the same thing I did last season.”
There’s no room for error anymore, but having defeated United at the weekend, this game comes at a decent time. Only a win will do.
Written by Rob Pollard
Written by Rob Pollard