CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview

Manuel Veth –

Group A: CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview

CSKA Moscow – Champions League Preview: The Stadium

VEB Arena – (capacity 30,000)

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview - CSKA Moscow plays its home games at the VEB Arena. (Image by Mos.ru)

CSKA Moscow plays its home games at the VEB Arena. (Image by Mos.ru)

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview – About the Club

CSKA Moscow are back in the UEFA Champions League. Finishing the Russian Football Premier League in second spot last season CSKA have reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the fifth season in a row. CSKA Moscow, however, are looking back at a difficult season. Having won the Russian title in 2016 thanks to a last-minute wonder save by Igor Akinfeev CSKA struggled throughout the early part of the 2016-17 season.

As a result, long standing head coach Leonid Slutsky ended up leaving the club last November. It was a tearful goodbye as Slutsky handed over the club to the young Belarusian coach Viktor Goncharenko. The former BATE Borisov head coach made history in 2008 when he became the youngest coach in the Champions League group stage. In 2011 he returned to the Champions League with BATE and coached the club to a 3-1 victory over Bayern München. Since then Goncharenko had become one of the most sought-after coaches in the post-Soviet space. But stints at Kuban Krasnodar and Ural Yekaterinburg ended in disappointment. He then became Slutsky’s assistant coach at CSKA during the 2015-16 season before taking over Ufa at the beginning of the 2016 season.

When Slutsky decided to leave the former Red Army club, CSKA moved quickly to bring Goncharenko back. Goncharenko had done fantastic work at Ufa somewhat revolutionising the club’s playing style. Favouring a 3-5-2 Goncharenko quickly moved to change the way CSKA Moscow played and for some time came close to challenge Spartak for the title last season. Instead CSKA had to make due with the second spot in the group.

Viktor Goncharenko managed to salvage CSKA's Russian Football Premier League season. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Viktor Goncharenko managed to salvage CSKA’s Russian Football Premier League season. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Once one of the richest clubs in Russia CSKA Moscow have struggled with finances ever since owner Evgenii Giner had seen investments on the Crimean peninsula go sideways—as a result CSKA were unable to sign a single new player this summer, and there are rumours that the club could be sold to Roman Abramovich’s son Arkadiy. Despite the financial problems the club managed to navigate the qualification for the UEFA Champions League without major problems defeating AEK Athens and Young Boys Bern without conceding a single goal. In fact, CSKA Moscow’s keeper Igor Akinfeev had been without a clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League since November 1, 2006, when CSKA Moscow managed a 0-0 draw against Arsenal in London.

Know Your Oligarch:

Evgenii Giner is still officially listed as the owner of the club. But his ownership has come under pressure ever since investments made into power companies on the Crimean peninsula have failed. As a result, CSKA have struggled financially. The financial problems could now end with the takeover of Arkadiy Abramovich. The son of Roman Abramovich has a net worth of €2.8 billion thanks and is the owner of several investment firms. The ownership change would bring some much needed capital to the club, but should only change ownership dynamics on paper. Roman Abramovich has always been rumoured to be the real source of investment at CSKA and despite the fact that UEFA could never fully establish a link between Chelsea and CSKA it is an open secret that the two clubs work closely together.

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview – Opponents:

CSKA Moscow were drawn into a group with Manchester United, FC Basel and Benfica. Some of the best sites to bet at know Manchester United will be the hands-down favourite to advance from Group A. At the same time; the Red Devils will have to be warned. Manchester United and CSKA Moscow were drawn together in the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League season and United ended up drawing CSKA 1-1 at Arena Khimki. As a result, the English Premier League club finished third in the group stage and had to make due with Europa League football in the spring. CSKA are a much weaker team this season, however. At the same time, they are about at the same level as FC Basel and Benfica. Those three teams will be competing for the second spot behind Manchester United in Group A

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview – What to Expect:

CSKA Moscow reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage was the minimum requirement ahead of this season. The club was desperate for the cash injection, and Champions League money now ensures survival until a new owner can be found. The financial problems meant that CSKA did not make a single new signing this summer. Goncharenko will therefore have to field many of the players that have been the backbone of the Red Army team for the last decade. With this in mind CSKA finishing third would be a major success.

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview – The Biggest Star

Igor Akinfeev has finally done it. After eleven years the goalkeeper managed a clean sheet in the qualification game against AEK Athens. He then followed that game up with three more qualification games in which he was not scored on. This might be the most important season yet for the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper. Back in 2006 when Akinfeev managed his last clean sheet in a Champions League game, he was considered one of the brightest goalkeeping prospects in European football. The 0-0 draw at Highbury against Arsenal where he kept out the likes of Thierry Henry, Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie sparked the interests of the likes of Bayern München, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Igor Akinfeev will have to show that he can still be Russia's starting goalkeeper. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Igor Akinfeev will have to show that he can still be Russia’s starting goalkeeper. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

But Akinfeev remained in Russia and as it is the case with many stars of the Sbornaya never really fulfilled his potential playing in the domestic Russian Football Premier League. Now with the World Cup taking place in Russia, there is even doubt on whether Akinfeev will start for the Sbornaya. Two mistakes against Mexico meant an early exit for Russia at the Confederations Cup and some experts have demanded that the keeper should be replaced. Akinfeev will, therefore, be in the spotlight this season as he has to fight for the number one position in Russia’s goal.

CSKA Moscow Champions League Preview – Likely Lineup

Akinfeev – V. Berezutsky, Ignashevich, A. Berezutsky – Shchennikov, Golovin, Natcho, Wernbloom, M. Fernandes – Vitinho, Dzagoev


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.