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CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon – Thursday, March 8, 18:00 GMT/19:00 CET – VEB Arena, Moscow – Russia

CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon will take place at the VEB Arena in Moscow. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon will take place at the VEB Arena in Moscow. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Crvena Zvezda were overcome in the previous round with a warming 1-0 home victory in perishing condition in the Russian capital to put CSKA through. Weather is expected to be equally frosty for the arrival of Lyon, which may well be the most significant weapon Viktor Goncharenko and his men can rely on. Keeping out the away goal will be critical, although they face some challenges with achieving this aim, first of which is the fitness of their squad.

Mario Fernandes has joined the growing list of serious injury problems as they are now left with just one recognised senior fullback available in Kirill Nababkin. Konstantin Kuchaev is certain to retain his unorthodox place at wingback, but the youngster’s form has been such that he may have continued in the starting XI anyway. Viktor Vasin has been ruled out for the rest of the season, while Vasiliy Berezutskiy is suspended for the first leg this week.

Versatile Swede Pontus Wernbloom will fill in alongside Berezutskiy’s twin Alexey and Sergey Ignashevich as the only available centre-backs in their squad. Wernbloom has played through the whole spine of the lineup from attack to defence, so will not be accustomed to the role, but his bite in midfield will be missed. In his stead, Bibras Natkho will be tasked with patrolling the middle of the park.

Lyon are – like their hosts – positioned fourth in their domestic league table, but have struggled lately to maintain their results. They have won just three of their last ten matches in all competitions, including being knocked out of the Coupe de France by mid-table Caen, and have slipped out of the Champions League qualification places after a dreadful run of six league matches without a victory.

Former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay – who played in the current Europa League champions’ side in Moscow two seasons ago – has struck some spectacular long-range strikes this season, and will be a threat to the makeshift defence. There are serious question marks over the fitness of standout attacking threat Nabil Fekir, but a last-minute decision will be taken over whether his knee will keep him out of the first leg.The main problem has been at the other end of the pitch; one clean sheet in the last two months in all competitions has seen them drop points consistently.

Europe is the one place they have had more joy. Semifinalists last year, they won both legs of the last-32 win over Villareal, and they went unbeaten for the first five group-stage matches this campaign before losing a dead rubber against Atalanta once progression had long been secured. Captain Anthony Lopes remains upbeat despite the struggles. “We will have to reverse all that very quickly,” he told L’Équipe after last weekend’s disappointing draw with Montpellier. The only way out of this difficult situation is to stay positive. Not one of us is negative. We have to move forward, we have no choice.”

CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon – Players to Watch

Bibras Natkho #66 – CSKA Moscow

The experienced Israeli midfielder must shoulder all the weight of experience on his shoulders as Wernbloom moves to defence to cover for injured and suspension. His job will be both complicated and straightforward; simple in that his task will be to shield the defence with discipline, but complicated in that he will be facing a mobile and pacey attack. His passing is uncomplicated, and hs set-piece ability could end up being a vital factor in CSKA’s chances of emerging unscathed.

Bibras Natkho will be CSKA's key player. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Bibras Natkho will be CSKA’s key player. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Mariano Díaz #10  – Olympique Lyon

After a strangely patient start to his career, Díaz has finally been given a chance to prove why Real Madrid were so keen to sign him as an 18-year-old. After painstakingly graduating through the youth system in the Spanish capital the Dominican Republic international has used his tenacity and physicality to devastating effect in France. Standing just over six foot tall, he hassles and harries defenders into mistakes, and when he has the ball at his feet, he has an electric turn of pace that could make mincemeat out of the relatively slow CSKA defence.

Mariano Diaz will be Lyon's key player. (JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Mariano Diaz will be Lyon’s key player. (JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Futbolgrad Network Prediction: CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon – 1-1

CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon – Match Stats

  • CSKA have failed to beat French opposition at home in three attempts
  • Their record European defeat – a 6-0 annihilation – came against Lyon’s compatriots Marseille 25 years ago in the first season of the Champions League
  • CSKA have scored in all but one of this season’s six European home games
  • Lyon didn’t win any of their three previous visits to Russia, drawing against Rubin Kazan and Spartak Moscow and losing to Zenit St. Petersburg, and conceded in all of them
  • They have lost 13 of their last 18 away matches in the knockout stages of European competition, winning just twice

CSKA Moscow vs Olympique Lyon – Possible Lineups

CSKA Moscow

Formation: 3-5-2

Akinfeev – Wernbloom, A. Berezutskiy, Ignashevich – Kuchaev, Dzagoev, Natkho, Golovin, Nababkin – Musa, Vitinho

Manager: Viktor Goncharenko

Olympique Lyon

Formation: 4-3-3

Lopes – Tete, Marcelo, Morel, Mendy – Tousart, Aouar, Ndombèlé – Depay, Traore, Díaz

Manager: Bruno Génésio

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.

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