How Manchester City Will Line Up Against CSKA Moscow in Champions League Tilt
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At least we think the match will be played in that building.
CSKA Moscow were forced out of their home for an earlier Champions League Group D match with Viktoria Plzen due to concerns about the pitch in Moscow after weeks of flooding rains in the Russian capital. That match was moved to St. Petersburg.
The Manchester City men who are probably the least amused about the condition of the pitch potentially being an issue are Pellegrini and centre-back Matija Nastasic.
The last time Manchester City traveled thousands of miles from home to play, Nastasic lost about a month to a nasty ankle injury sustained on a waterlogged "killer pitch" in Hong Kong, per David Kent of the Daily Mail.
Of course, that injury was sustained in a glorified exhibition match. This encounter with CSKA Moscow is as real as it gets for a football club with Manchester City's aspirations.
It is therefore extremely probable that most of the players Pellegrini will send out against CSKA Moscow will be the same ones he started in the Sky Blues' two prior Champions League matches away at Viktoria Plzen and at home against Bayern Munich.
Pellegrini's starting lineups from those two matches featured nine—NINE—common players.
Keeper Joe Hart, who started against Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich, is a given.
Hart is surely relieved to hear that Pellegrini thinks he is past his dodgy run. Nothing like a vote of confidence from the boss, one of the many things in life that sounds a lot better than it actually is.
The entire midfield of Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas started against both Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich. They are all fit, but only three of them are probably going to start in Moscow.
Nasri got those starts while David Silva was out injured. Silva is back now and that will probably consign Nasri to a reserve role.
Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko both started in the prior two Champions League matches. Aguero is as close to a lead-pipe cinch to start as there is. Dzeko may lose his place to Alvaro Negredo—more likely, Dzeko will start but be on a really short leash, with Negredo ready to come on at a moment's notice.
So that accounts for seven of the nine repeat starters. The other two play where most of City's trouble comes from these days.
The eighth player to start against both Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich is Nastasic. He is going to start. The ninth, Vincent Kompany, will not.
How many of my projected XI will start against CSKA Moscow?
Pellegrini gave single Champions League starts to Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Micah Richards. He could somewhat afford to play matchup games with his full-backs since his centre-back pairing was intact.
With Kompany out, though, Pellegrini almost has to play his best full-back pairing and hope that, with Nastasic's help, they can cover the player he plugs in for Kompany.
Which, sad to say, is very likely to be Javi Garcia. Such is Joleon Lescott's unimaginable fall from elite defender to squad player.
So, my projected Manchester City XI at CSKA Moscow is: Hart; Clichy, Nastasic, Garcia, Zabaleta; Silva, Toure, Fernandinho, Navas; Aguero, Dzeko.
If you think Pellegrini will chance this match with a surprise start for a player like Jack Rodwell or James Milner, have your say in the comments. I just do not see it.
Pellegrini has to go chalk with this XI.
After the blasting the Sky Blues took at home from Bayern Munich, anything less than a point from this trip to Moscow would be devastating for City's hopes of surviving group play.
Whether they can survive another day of Garcia's slapstick centre-back play is anyone's guess.
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