Manchester City will visit CSKA Moscow on Wednesday in one of eight UEFA Champions League matches to be held in Groups A-D. Both clubs have a win and a loss in the group stage of the European tournament.
Manuel Pellegrini's side suffered back-to-back setbacks against Aston Villa (Premier League) and Bayern Munich (Champions League) just a few matches ago, but has since responded with two EPL wins over Everton and West Ham United.
City will now look to recapture a firm grip on second place—maybe first place, depending on what happens with Munich-Viktoria Plzen—in the Group D table by taking down Moscow on the road.
CSKA Moscow is in the same boat as City, having beaten Viktoria Plzen and lost to Munich in Champions League play. If you exclude the 3-2 UCL win over the Czech side, the Russian Premier League inhabitant hasn't won a match since Sept. 14 and is currently sixth in its league table.
We'll prepare you for this Champions League match below with viewing information, a live stream location and prediction for the final outcome.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 23 at noon ET (5 p.m. BST)
Where: Arena Khimki; Khimki, Moscow Region, Russia
Watch: Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
Live Stream: FoxSoccer2Go
Odds*: CSKA Moscow (+380), Manchester City (-140), Draw (+280)
*Odds via Bovada, accurate as of 10/22/13.
Arena Khimki Takes Center Stage
There are some who feel Arena Khimki is not a suitable surface for this match.
Coaches from both clubs are in that crowd.
Pellegrini showcased his displeasure with the playing surface on Tuesday, as noted by the club's official Twitter account:
City star Fernandinho also is concerned about the state of the pitch. As reported by Stuart James of The Guardian, the Brazilian midfielder took some time to speak out about what he has noticed about Arena Khimki while preparing for this match:
I am worried about the pitch. If you don't have a good pitch it could be very hard for us. ... I am hoping it will be a good game but that depends on whether the pitch is good or not. ... Everybody has talked about the pitch being bad but I don't know. We will see when we train there. If the pitch is bad we may have to fight to win the game but that is no different to any other game – it is always a fight to win.
Pellegrini and his City stars are not the only ones who are worried about player safety and the match being affected by the pitch. In fact, this tweet from Martin Blackburn of The Sun suggests that the home side are worried about any such extra activity on the grass before kickoff:
As reported by the Press Association, via The Guardian, Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky has also conceded that conditions are not great at the venue.
"I suppose the quality of the pitch is, absolutely, equal to the quality of our latest results," said Slutsky, per the report.
MCFC Daily had this picture of the field as City was training on Tuesday evening:
While the pitch condition shouldn't be a suitable excuse in the event that either side underperforms on Wednesday, the amount of uproar about the current state of Arena Khimki is alarming indeed. If the outcome is affected by the pitch in the final few minutes, expect a monsoon of outrage from the side impacted in that situation.
Manchester City 3, CSKA Moscow 1
City faltered in their last Champions League match, but CSKA Moscow doesn't have the talent or sheer presence of defending UCL champion Munich.
Although the EPL contenders will be without Vincent Kompany on Wednesday, Pellegrini is still fielding a side that has scored the most goals in the Premier League this year and that has a potent offensive attack to boast.
By comparison, CSKA Moscow has scored just 12 goals in 13 RPL matches.
Behind goals from Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, I like the Citizens to cruise to a victory in Russia—even if the pitch severely limits the away side in the first half. Once City figure out how to adjust to the playing surface, it should be smooth sailing.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter.
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