CSKA set to give Manchester United a frosty welcome in Russia

CSKA Moscow v Manchester United, Champions League, October 21, 2009

CSKA Moscow 5/2; Draw 23/10; Manchester United 10/11

Premier League leaders and Group B front-runners Manchester United travel to Russia on Wednesday to face a CSKA Moscow side rocked by the season-ending ankle injury suffered by Chilean midfielder Mark Gonzalez on international duty last week.

Strangely, the English giants have never won in Russia against home opposition having recorded draws at Torpedo Moscow back in the 1992/93 season and Rotor Volgograd back in 1995/96 on their two previous visits. That said, United do have fond memories of CSKA’s Luzhniki Stadium, being the venue of their 2007 Champions League final success against Chelsea. However the match against CSKA will be a slightly different affair than that showpiece final, particularly as the surface will be on artificial grass.

With one eye on the upcoming fixture with Liverpool at the weekend, Ferguson has a slew of headaches in selecting his starting eleven. Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Park Ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher have all been ruled out of the game, while Nemanja Vidic (8/1 to score) and Dimitar Berbatov (6/1 to score last) are touch-and-go to be fit for kick-off.

In their absence, Michael Owen (9/1 to score a brace) and Jonny Evans look likely to retain their starting places having been selected to face Bolton last weekend. United will also be strengthened by the return of veteran Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar between the sticks, while the likes of Gabriel Obertan (5/1 to score & United win) and Rafael da Silva could be in line for some first team action after both players featured for the reserves in recent weeks.

CSKA lost their opening group game at Wolfsburg, although a spirited performance against Besiktas saw them win 2-1 and they’ll be confident ahead of the arrival of United that they can add some more points on the board.

Juande Ramos, the former Tottenham manager, recently took over the reigns from Zico at CSKA and the Spaniard is blessed with a team full of talent from front to back. United supporters will be eager to see how keeper Igor Akinfeev shapes up after having been heavily linked to Old Trafford in recent months. (CSKA are 11/4 to keep a clean sheet.)

Further forward, the Russians will be pinning their hopes on the mercurial teenager Alan Dzagoev (10/3 to score), who is being primed to be one of the leading playmakers of his generation. Alongside, Serbian forward Milos Krasic (11/1 to score first) is another man United should watch out for, the striker having got on the scoresheet against Spartak Nalchik last weekend.

CSKA will also be buoyed in the knowledge that they have won their last six European home games, though they have emerged victorious from only one of the last five in the Champions League in Moscow. Further, CSKA have won their last two home games against English clubs, beating Aston Villa 2-0 in last season’s UEFA Cup and Arsenal 1-0 in the 2006-07 Champions League.

Stats also paint a pretty picture for Fergie’s men, as United are unbeaten in their last 13 Champions League away games and, amazingly, have conceded only two goals in the last nine.

101gg predicts: CSKA Moscow 1 – Manchester United 1 (11/2)

CSKA Moscow 5/2; Draw 23/10; Manchester United 10/11

Full match odds here.