The inside track on CSKA Moscow...
27 September 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
As we prepare to face CSKA Moscow for the first time, we turned to Russian-based football expert Richard van Poortvliet to shed some light on CSKA's form and playing squad ahead of this evening's Champions League Group E fixture at Arena CSKA.
Richard van Poortvliet, Moscow
How is CSKA’s form going into this Champions League match?
Richard: "Aside from a blip in the Russian Cup, CSKA Moscow’s form has been excellent this season and they are unbeaten in both the league and in Europe. Despite playing their first five matches away from home due to their new stadium finishing construction, the reigning Russian champions have constantly found a way to pick up points even when they have not been playing well. Although defensively CSKA have been sound domestically, questions regarding a lack of pace in defence against top quality opposition remain, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has not kept a clean sheet in 38 Champions League group stage matches."
What style of play can we expect from CSKA? What formation does CSKA's renowned coach Leonid Slutski favour?
Richard: "Slutksi is religious in fielding a 4-2-3-1 line-up, however the formation does have a certain flexibility to it and can easily become a 4-3-3 or even 4-5-1 depending on the situation. CSKA like to play good football and a possession-based game. In the past, the Army Men have relied on the pace of Ahmed Musa and Seydou Doumbia, but with both players having left the club, Lacina Traoré gives the Russian side a different option. The giant Ivorian is able to hold the ball and bring CSKA’s array of attacking midfielders into play, which arguably gives them more attacking options than before."
Below: CSKA coach Leonid Slutski
Which CSKA players should we look out for?
Richard: "Alan Dzagoev is the play probably best known to Tottenham Hotspur fans, however the midfielder is a serious doubt for Tuesday’s clash due to a hamstring strain. The Army Men possess no stars, but are an excellently drilled unit, who play well as a team, while the core of the side has been around for years. Aleksandr Golovin may have disappointed in the European Championships over the summer in France, but the 20-year-old is extremely talented and could cause the Spurs defence problems with both his technical ability and his eye for a pass."
Below: Alan Dzagoev scores against Bayer Leverkusen
A general question, what is the state of Russia’s domestic football at the moment?
Richard: "Russian football is not enjoying the best of times, with attendances low and a general apathy towards the game following the poor showing of Russia at successive major tournaments. There is a lack of star talent in the Russian league with many of the big name players leaving due to the weakening of the rouble. The poor quality of stadia has not helped, however, a number of new stadiums are being completed, such as in Kransodar and Moscow, which will make going to games a more pleasurable experience."
What can you tell us about CSKA’s new stadium, Arena CSKA?
Richard: "Finally CSKA have somewhere to call home. The ground would not look out of place in England, with the stands close to the pitch – however, there is one big difference. The corners have not been filled in with seats – rather they are office blocks, which amongst other things, house the club’s administration. However, one of these blocks is bigger than the others. A huge skyscraper has been built in one of the corners, which is actually in the shape of the UEFA Cup, which celebrates CSKA’s victory in the competition in 2005."
Below: CSKA skipper Igor Akinfeev
Finally, what are your thoughts on Spurs and how do you think Tuesday night’s match will go?
Richard: "I can’t confess to have seen many of Tottenham’s games, but what has impressed me is the team are managing to spread the goals around and are not as reliant on Harry Kane, as was the case last year. Tottenham’s attacking players have the guile and the ability to unlock CSKA’s defense, which has proved to be porous at times against top quality opposition. Spurs have the ability to claim three points in what will be their first ever game in Moscow, however, they would do well not to underestimate a dogged and dangerous CSKA side."