Manchester City welcome in CSKA Moscow for a crucial Champions League fixture.
The Citizens are three points ahead of their Russian counterparts after three matches in the group stage. That means a win will put City through to the knockout stage. Should CSKA win their final two matches and City lose their final two, the latter would advance based on head-to-head record.
With the win, the worst-case scenario for Manchester City would be finishing second in Group D, which is where most would've predicted them to finish when the draw was announced.
These two sides met on Oct. 23, with Manchester City getting a pivotal 2-1 win in Russia. It was a big result for the club, coming off that 3-1 drubbing against Bayern Munich a few weeks prior.
CSKA have enough talent to snatch a draw or even a win in Manchester, but it's going to take a huge effort. They'll have to play a great game and hope that City slip-up. It wouldn't be the biggest upset we've seen in the Champions League this year.
Here's a quick preview of this European fixture.
When: Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 2:45 p.m. ET; 7:45 p.m. GMT
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Watch: Fox Soccer Plus (US); Sky Sports 2 (UK)
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Manchester City win: 75.5 percent
CSKA Moscow win: 7.1 percent
Draw: 17.3 percent
Top Storyline: Will Fans and Players Behave Themselves?
The biggest storyline from the first match didn't have anything to do with the actual match action, but rather the racial abuse aimed at Yaya Toure from the home fans. As a result, UEFA has ordered that part of CSKA's stadium be closed when the club hosts Bayern Munich in its next UCL match.
It's a punishment many, including former footballer Matt Le Tissier, feel isn't strong enough:
With the clubs playing so soon after the incident, you have to wonder if emotions are going to boil over. Might the players get into a scrap, leading to a sending-off(s)? Or could there be more abuse coming from the fans in attendance?
In all likelihood, the fans' response will come directly from the players, so it's imperative the players remain even-keeled, especially Toure.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini thinks the Ivorian midfielder will be able to move on from the event and focus instead on the match, via Sky Sports:
I think Yaya is an experienced player.
What happened in Russia maybe he can't forget but tomorrow is a special match for him, not because of that but because Manchester City can go to the next stage of the Champions League. I think he will only be thinking about football.
It will be important for everybody involved—fans, players and managers—to keep a level head. This is supposed to be the pinnacle of club football, and yet one of the biggest talking points is more racial abuse. Yes this is a societal problem, but you could argue those in charge aren't doing enough to snuff it out.
If CSKA can't beat Manchester City in Moscow, they've got little chance of doing so at the Etihad. City were able to go into a cauldron and get three points on what was a terrible pitch at the Arena Khimki. That's the hard part done and out of the way.
City have made it a habit of playing well against top competition. It's against the lesser clubs that they always struggle, playing down to their opponents. CSKA are a top club, and the racial abuse ensures that Pellegrini's players will be up for this one. And if that's not enough, there's that knockout spot up for grabs.
Manchester City are on a great run of form. They've won five of their last six matches across all competitions. Pellegrini's tactics are sinking in, while the defensive deficiencies aren't as apparent.
Sergio Aguero, in particular, is playing extremely well. He'll be a handful all by himself for the CSKA back four. He can drop back and be the facilitator, or stay closer to goal and play as a more conventional striker.
City will be able to control possession, and their midfield is too much for CSKA to overcome. It will be an assured victory for the Manchester side.
Manchester City 2, CSKA Moscow 0