CSKA Moscow vs Basel – Wednesday, October 18, 19:45 BST/20:45 CET – VEB Arena – Moscow, Russia
Pontus Wernbloom and Aleksandr Golovin are expected to return to action for CSKA Moscow in this Champions League tie after being on the sidelines for the previous domestic round. Viktor Goncharenko has admitted that his squad is stretched to its limit at the moment, but his young charges have mostly weathered the storm to go three points clear in the Champions League places, a mere four points behind the all-powerful league leaders Zenit St Petersburg. A performance full of heart from a threadbare starting XI held of Krasnodar in their back yard at the weekend, returning some pride lost from the 4-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester United.
Alan Dzagoev is likely to be the only absentee against the 20-time Swiss champions, although if there was a fixture to be unavailable for in this European campaign, it would be this one. Arguably the weakest side in the group on paper, it is a golden opportunity to all but seal a minimum of third place and a back passage route into the Europa League. With Konstantin Kuchaev, Timur Zhamaletdinov, Fedor Chalov, Khetag Khosonov and Astemir Gordyushenko all earning minutes in recent weeks, what was previously a shallow pool of players is beginning to look much healthier.
Recent reports have highlighted quite how serious the financial problems might be for CSKA; the cost of building and maintaining the spectacular VEB Arena have laden the club with a heavy, but FFP-compliant, debt. Aleksandr Golovin and Mario Fernandes, players CSKA can ill afford to lose, are said to be targets for other clubs in the winter transfer window, so progression in the Champions League is critical for the Armymen.
However, Basel did pull off a spectacular 5-0 annihilation of Benfica in the last round of matches to leave the Portuguese side bottom of the group with no points and a double-header with favourites Manchester United to come. Despite having a modestly-assembled squad (the most valuable player – 23-year-old Norwegian midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi – is worth just €4.75 million according to transfermarkt.de), Raphael Wicky’s outfit have shaken up group A with their hefty victory.
Dutch forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel – the Swiss Super League’s top goalscorer with seven strikes in just nine games- is out injured for this fixture, meaning the primary attacking duties will likely be handed to Cameroon-born 20-year-old Dmitri Oberlin. The Swiss under-21 international scored twice in the thrashing of Benfica and is likely to be deployed from out wide as part of a three-man attack.
With the implications at stake over this pair of fixtures between the second and third-placed teams in group A, a huge amount hinges on this fixture already, despite only marking the halfway point of the group stage.
CSKA Moscow vs Basel – Players to Watch
Vitinho #11 – CSKA Moscow
The Brazilian forward was wasteful in front of goal at the weekend after the tense victory over league rivals Krasnodar, although in fairness he created a large portion of chances himself through his powerful running and determination. Given how many of his first-choice teammates were either rested or injured, the responsibility on his still-young shoulders was significant. Although he needs to be more clinical when presented with opportunities, his movement and pace will be a major threat to the Swiss side, who will most likely be satisfied with a point.
Dmitri Oberlin #19 – Basel
Something of an unknown quantity on the continental stage, Oberlin has the raw energy to trouble CSKA’s backline if given the license. He rarely pays a full 90 minutes, instead used as an explosive option in shorter bursts. Whenever he receives the ball, he looks to turn his man and run directly towards goal, his turn of pace a devastating weapon in his arsenal. At the weekend he was named on the bench and not used as a substitute, suggested Wicky is saving him for European duty.
CSKA Moscow vs Basel – Match Stats
- CSKA’s defeat to United last time out was their first home defeat in the Champions League in five fixtures, and only the third in the last 13
- The 4-1 result was also their heaviest ever home defeat in Europe’s premier competition
- Basel’s 5-0 win over Benfica, conversely, was their biggest ever victory in the Champions League
- Basel haven’t conceded in their last 425 competitive minutes
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: CSKA Moscow vs Basel 1-0
CSKA Moscow vs Basel – Possible Lineups
Akinfeev – A. Berezutskiy, Vasin, V Berezutskiy – Fernandes, Golovin, Wernbloom, Natkho, Schennikov – Vitinho, Zhamaletdinov
Manager: Viktor Goncharenko
Vaclík – Petretta, Suchy, Akanji, Lang – Xhaka, Zuffi, Serey Dié – Elyounoussi, Steffen, Oberlin
Manager: Raphael Wicky
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.