The Champions League clash CSKA Moscow vs Bayer Leverkusen will be extremely important for the Russians as they want to preserve their last chance to make the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League with a victory. The Germans meanwhile will be through to the next round if they avoid defeat, and if Tottenham Hotspur fails to achieve a win in their matchday 5 match against AS Monaco.
Currently CSKA Moscow are bottom of Group E with two points. Third placed Tottenham are on four points, and second placed Bayer Leverkusen are on six points.
The game at the new Arena CSKA should therefore be one of the most interesting games to watch on matchday 5 of the Champions League. There should also be plenty of goals in this match, as Bayer Leverkusen drew CSKA Moscow 2-2 on matchday 1 of this year’s competition. Since then CSKA have not been in good form, so expect Bayer, who are second in the group, to take advantage of this.
In fact the Germans were ahead by two early goals scored by Admir Mehmedi (6th minute), and Hakan Çalhanoğlu (15th minute) in the first match, before CSKA managed to rally back through goals by Alan Dzagoev (36th minute) and Roman Eremenko (38th minute). Both those players were key for CSKA Moscow during that period, and both players have been out of the squad in the last few weeks, as Alan Dzagoev has been struggling with injuries, and Eremenko was suspended by UEFA for two weeks following the match with Bayer.
Dzagoev should be available when CSKA host Bayer Leverkusen at the new Arena CSKA on Tuesday. Eremenko, however, will be out for the match, as UEFA has finally lifted the curtain on Eremenko’s suspension, as the Finnish national team player has been given a two-year ban by UEFA for consuming cocaine.
CSKA Moscow will be able to appeal UEFA’s decision, but even if Eremenko’s penalty is reduced he will miss the game against Bayer Leverkusen. This is in fact a major blow (no pun intended) for the Russian club, as Eremenko had been a key player for CSKA Moscow early this season. Now with Eremenko out indefinitely CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky will have to look at other players to fill the void.
The likely scenario will be to play the Israeli national team player Bibras Natcho in defensive midfield instead. Natcho has recently recovered from a concussion, and has been slowly re-introduced to CSKA’s side. A technically gifted deep-lying playmaker, Natcho is in many ways predestined to replace Eremenko.
The Israeli will likely form the core in midfield together with the Swedish central midfielder Pontus Wernbloom, who will be in charge of the more defensive aspects in midfield, and Natcho in charge of the more offensive elements in the dual defensive midfield setup. In fact Natcho at one point was one of the most valuable players in the Russian Football Premier League, and with the absence of Eremenko he will be given plenty of playing time, and a chance to rebuild his pre-injury reputation.
In truth, however, Leonid Slutsky’s side has struggled with Eremenko, and dropped down to fourth place in the Russian Football Premier League in the Finnish playmaker’s absence. In the light of this Bayer Leverkusen are very much the favourites going into Tuesday’s match.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: CSKA Moscow vs Bayer Leverkusen 0-3
Akinfeev – Schennikov, V. Berezutski, Ignashevich, Mário Fernandes – Wernbloom, Dzagoev – Ionov, Natkho, Tosić – Strandberg
Manager: Leonid Slutsky
Leno – Wendell, Tah, Toprak, Henrichs – Brandt, Aránguiz, Çalhanoğlu, Mehmedi – Volland, Chicharito
Manager: Roger Schmidt