Benfica vs CSKA Moscow – Tuesday 19:45BT/20:45 CET – Stadium Da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal.
CSKA Moscow continue to press for the top spots in the Russian Football Premier League ahead of matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League. Defeating Amkar Perm 1-0 CSKA fans could almost forget a transfer window that ended in major disappointment for them.
The former Red Army side did not sign a single player this window, and instead, head coach Viktor Goncharenko has been tasked to make due with the squad that he had already at his disposal. The recent transfer stop is mainly because the club’s owner, Evgenii Giner, is facing financial problems over failed investments on the Crimean Peninsula. Another issue has been the club’s new stadium. The VEB Arena is a beautiful facility, but the club hoped that the investment would pay off in more game day revenues, which has simply not been the case.
As a result, the club is now in an awkward situation where head coach Goncharenko has to rebuild without spending any money. As a result, the backline remains guarded by the ageing Berezutski twins (35) and Sergey Ignashevich (38). Speed will be therefore CSKA’s biggest problem when they face Benfica on Tuesday. But there are also good news. CSKA Moscow’s youth academy has done very well in last season’s UEFA Youth League and players like Aleksandr Golovin, Fedor Chalov, Konstantin Kuchaev and Timur Zhamaltdinov, who scored the game winner against Amkar on Friday, seem now ready to make their mark on the first team.
Benfica in the meantime entered this season on the backs of their fourth league title in a row. Drawn in a group with Tuesday’s opponent CSKA, Basel and Manchester United Benfica also hope to not only reach the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League but perhaps break into Europe’s top eight by reaching the quarterfinals this season.
Whether they can do it will to a large extent depend on the performance against CSKA. Last season Benfica would have gone into this match as the clear cut favourite. Like CSKA, however, Benfica lost several key player during this summer. Earning €130.85 million Benfica will have to compensate the departures of the likes of Ederson, Victor Lindelöf, Nélson Semedo and Konstantinos Mitroglou. The game on Tuesday will, therefore, be a tight affair with the likely result being a draw.
Benfica vs CSKA Moscow – Players to look out for:
Jonas #10 Benfica
Benfica’s 33-year-old striker Jonas is the club’s most important player. Last season he managed 13 goals and five assists in 19 Liga NOS games for Benfica. He is once again on fire this year having scored five goals and two assists in four games. Jonas is, however, not a typical all and out striker. Sitting deep behind a striking partner Jonas likes to create chances by playing off a faster and more dynamic striker. As a result, Benfica brought in Haris Seferović from Eintracht Frankfurt. Seferović with his running creates the sort of space that Jonas can use to deadly effect.
Aleksandr Golovin #17 CSKA Moscow
Golovin could become the key player in CSKA Moscow’s rebuild this season. The 21-year-old has been on occasions used as a false nine by head coach Viktor Goncharenko. But those who have watched Golovin more closely will realise that playing up front is not his best position. Golovin is instead best utilised playing deeper in midfield, and that is exactly where Goncharenko used him in CSKA Moscow’s 1-0 victory over Amkar Perm on Friday. Together with Alan Dzagoev Golovin was in charge of CSKA’s transition game and it appears that the emergence of Timur Zhamaletdinov up front would finally allow Goncharenko to play Golovin further back, which can only be good news for the midfielder’s development.
Benfica vs CSKA Moscow – Match Stats
- All three of CSKA’s defeats this season have been at home.
- The Army Men have not lost away from the Stadion CSKA Moskva since the 3-1 reverse against Tottenham on matchday 6 last season.
- Alan Dzagoev scored past Júlio César when CSKA crashed 3-2 at home to FC Internazionale Milano in the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League group stage.
- Jonas and Mário Fernandes were team-mates at Grêmio from 2009 to 2011.
- Eliseu was a second-half substitute and Pizzi an unused replacement as Portugal beat hosts Russia 1-0 at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Moscow on 21 June.
- Igor Akinfeev, Viktor Vasin and Aleksandr Golovin were in Russia’s line-up.
- Viktor Goncharenko was in charge of FC BATE Borisov when they faced Benfica in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage, losing 2-0 away and 2-1 at home.
Prediction: Benfica vs CSKA Moscow 1-1
Benfica vs CSKA Moscow – Possible Lineups
Varela – Eliseu, Jardel, Luisao, Almeida – Pizzi, Filipe Augusto – Cervi, Silva – Jonas, Seferović
Coach: Rui Vitoria
Akinfeev – A. Berezutski, V. Berezutski, Ignashevich – Nabakin, Golovin, Wernbloom, Dzagoev, Mário Fernandes – Zhamaletdinov, Vitinho
Coach: Viktor Goncharenko
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.