Injuries and disqualifications are threatening to prevent CSKA from sealing a place in the knock-out stage of the UEFA Champions League as they face French side Lille in Moscow on Tuesday night.
After claiming four points from two games against Trabzonspor, CSKA are strongly in contention to clinch one of the two qualifying places in their penultimate group match, when the Armymen will host Lille.
In their first ever meeting in September, CSKA were trailing 2-0 to Lille after Moussa Sow and Benoit Pedretti scored in a 13-minute second-half spell.
But the Muscovite side fought back to snatch a vital draw thanks to a brace from Seydou Doumbia – this despite coming into the match on the back of a 2-1 domestic defeat to Rubin.
“I can compare both our previous opponents, Rubin and Lille,” Aleksandr Cauna, CSKA’s midfielder, said. “Both sides control the ball well. The French team have good players in their squad such as Eden Azar and Benua Pedretti. And if they are attacking, they do it aggressively.”
However, CSKA’s top goal-scorer Doumbia will miss the clash due to a one-game suspension. But the Armymen’s boss, Leonid Slutsky, is sure Vagner Love, who is still serving a three-match ban in the domestic league, is ready to replace Doumbia.
“Vagner Love is a person who can’t really be in bad physical condition,” the Russian team’s coach said. “His patchy form is usually connected not with condition but with his mental and emotional state. It’s always hard to predict forwards’ quality of play. But he trained hard and I’m sure he knows about the responsibility that he’s a key player. And I’m sure Vagner will cope with it.”
CSKA are still missing four key players due to injuries. However, attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda has recovered, and is ready to help his side along with winger Sekou Oliseh, giving the Red-and-Blues some choice to boost their attacking options.
“The main difference between our first encounter and the upcoming match is that we will miss injured Zoran Tosic and Doumbia,” Slutsky said. “And we will have to change tactics. We’ll see if it helps us. It will be harder without Doumbia, but we are still aiming for a win.”
Meanwhile, Lille are also experiencing some problems with their squad, with midfielder Pedretti and full-back Marco Basha out injured.
Moreover, their flight to Moscow was delayed and the Mastiffs had to cancel their training session.
A CSKA win, combined with a home defeat for third-placed Trabzonspor against Inter Milan, would propel the Russian side into the knock-out round.
But despite the fact that Lille have managed to clinch just one Champions League win in 12 matches on the road, CSKA are still going to face a tough test in their last group match at home.