CSKA and United could struggle to produce fireworks in Moscow
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday
Manchester United have been winning plenty of plaudits for their exciting march towards the Premier League summit but Jose Mourinho hasn’t forgotten the art of winning ugly, and it’s a knack that could be useful at CSKA Moscow.
United were poor at Southampton on Saturday, second best for most of the game but managed to come away with a precious 1-0 win.
Mourinho was understandably delighted to win a game in those circumstances and the undoubted master at nicking points and wins on the road in Europe will happily settle for another messy performance – so long as they don’t lose.
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They are sure to be a popular bet at 7-10 to win at the CSKA Arena against Group A’s other unbeaten side.
But Mourinho’s United failed to win four of their seven away games on their way to last season’s Europa League final and meet a CSKA outfit who are strong at home and in solid form themselves.
Goals are probably going to be at a premium. The 4-5 about under 2.5 goals looks one decent bet – United’s seven away ties in the Europa League produced 12 goals – although Betfair’s 9-10 that both teams don’t score appeals marginally more.
One or both teams have failed to score in eight of CSKA’s last ten – including each of their home Champions League ties during the qualifying phase – and six of United’s last eight.
If United do get in front, they could well hold on against a CSKA side who showed virtually no ambition in Lisbon against Benfica in their first match. It was only when they fell behind at the Stadium of Light that they started to play and went on to score twice, though it has to be said that Benfica were dire.
Back home in the Premier League CSKA have scored just 14 times in 11 matches and with three points on the board already, Viktor Goncharenko’s Army Men are quite likely to remain risk-averse once more.
This is a club who have finished bottom of their group on each of their last four appearances at this stage. They have danger men – Alan Dzagoev has been a class act for a while and Vitinho has pace to burn though he’s hardly prolific for a striker – but United defensively are hard to fault this term.
United look the likelier winner, as the odds imply. Mourinho has moaned about a few injuries, especially in midfield, but an engine room of Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic looks accomplished.
Eric Bailly is back from a ban to oust Victor Lindelof, who looks held at this level, and they have pace galore to trouble a CSKA back three featuring at least one of the 35-year-old Berezutskiy twins and possibly Sergei Ignashevich, who is 38. They will not fancy foot races against the likes of Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford.
One or both teams not to score
1pt 9-10 Betfair
Wing-back Mario Fernandes is a doubt after limping out of Saturday’s derby draw with Dinamo.
Marouane Fellaini joins Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michael Carrick and Marcos Rojo on the injured list. Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia are rested. Eric Bailly returns from a Champions League ban.
CSKA have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 40 Champions League group games.
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