English giants Manchester City will be looking to take a stranglehold on second place in their UEFA Champions League group by winning their second successive away match in this season’s competition at out-of-form CSKA Moscow today.
The 2011-2012 Premier League champions and runners-up last season to Manchester United only won one of their six away matches in their previous two campaigns, but got off to a winning start this term at Viktoria Plzen.
A subsequent defeat to group leaders and Champions League holders Bayern Munich — who also beat CSKA — in Manchester reflected how far Manuel Pelligrini’s side has to go to be viable challengers.
However, even reaching the knockout stage would represent a marked improvement on their two campaigns under former boss Roberto Mancini, when both times they failed to reach the second round.
They go into the game against a CSKA side who are goalless and winless in their past five league matches, boosted also by their first away win in the Premier League this season after a comprehensive 3-1 win at West Ham United.
Argentina international striker Sergio Aguero scored either side of halftime, while also setting up a late goal for David Silva which put them just three points off leaders Arsenal.
“Now we play four games in a row away, so it is the best moment, first to win away against West Ham and then to repeat the triumph we had against Plzen in the Champions League,” Pellegrini said.
Pelligrini, who was hoping captain and central defender Vincent Kompany would be fit to play, is more concerned about the state of the pitch in Moscow, which saw their first home game having to be played in St Petersburg because their pitch was deemed unplayable.
“We don’t know what the conditions of the pitch will be,” Pellegrini said.
However, the recent report of a UEFA delegate, who has inspected the condition of the pitch, said that it is now good enough to play on.
As if CSKA did not have enough of a task ahead of them, they will have to confront City without several key players, Brazilian defender Mario Fernandez, Latvian midfielder Aleksandrs Cauna and Russia playmaker Alan Dzagoev are all injured.
Meanwhile, striker Seydou Doumbia, who came on as a late substitute in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Zenit St-Petersburg, is still not at his best having just recovered from a back injury. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev missed the league match because of a swollen knee, but CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky said he was hoping he would be able to play today.