The UEFA Champions League kicks off this mid-week and we hope to add this mid-week football excitement to our calendars to keep us entertained every week.
Manchester United take on CSKA Moscow with all the teams locked in at 3 points and all 4 teams looking for victory in order to get an advantage to pushing up the table at the half way stage.
Manchester United will be buoyed a superb display with a 3-0 victory against Everton on the weekend, and that display will encourage van Gaal that his men can travel away to Moscow tonight with a possibility to grab all 3 points. Ander Herrera has definitely been influential in every single game that he has played so far; and one can expect him to start again in the midfield tonight behind Rooney up front. Depay should look to come back in the team especially since he is attuned to the European style of football and he has shown to be a better talent at that level as compared to his performances in the Premier League. Manchester United’s deface has been showed to be vulnerable at times, and travelling away to cold Russia, I can expect the defence to be shaky against the CSKA time.
CSKA Moscow have been sitting at the top of the Russian Premier League this campaign, largely instrumental the goal scoring prowess of Doumbia, Musa and Tosic. The three of them together have contributed to 14 out of CSKA’s 25 goals scored so far this campaign and are a handful for any team who are facing them. When we even looked back to the final qualifying round, we saw how CSKA turned around a deficit from a 2-1 loss in the away leg to a thrashing 3-1 win at the home leg with some great pace on the counter attack as well as brut strength in the box. Defenisve vulnerabilities have been visible as they have conceded in 8 out of their last 9 games in all competitions.
This is a game made for pure entertainment as Manchester United’s games have averaged 3 goals in 11 out of their last 12 games in all competitions while CSKA has seen 3 goals in 5 out of their last 7 games. As this group is wide open, and everyone in great offensive form looking for the 3 points, I expect a goals in this game, so I am going with the over 2.5 goals in this one.
Real Madrid travel away to PSG knowing that both teams have won both their opening 2 encounters for 6 points in the group and both teams will look for a way to win in order to take advantage of coming 1st in this group, to get a 2nd seeded team in the next round.
Real Madrid will travel missing 3 key first team players in Benzema, Modric and Rodriguez which would generally be key to their offence. However, this weekend Bale, Ronaldo and Isco showed they can be a formidable front 3 as they managed to win 3-0. Real Madrid will be playing this game a little cagey since they will be forced to deploy 3 defensive midfielders on Kroos, Kovacic and Casemiro due to injuries. The formation will hamper their free flowing football and one can expect a lot of stop-start football in this encounter. Defensively, while they were solid against a struggling Levante, having Nacho and Varane at the heart of the defence, does pose any fear in opposition defences. Ramos and Pepe will face late fitness tests, to see if they can be a part of this game, but even if any or both of them take part, I can see Madrid conceding goals, as they have this season against quality attacking threat like Bilbao andMadrid.
PSG will know coming into this encounter that Real Madrid have not face any quality teams this season so far, and it will be their first look in against a top European team tonight. PSG’s front 3 of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and Di Maria have been extremely entertaining; and Di Maria in particular will be aiming to put in a show against his former team. He has been a spark of energy after getting away from the poor season at Manchester United. The protection that the PSG midfield generally provide has been good as they sit in with Veratti, Motta and Matuidi to give protection to the back 4 and that gives freedom for the full backs to bomb forward. Bale and Ronaldo will be looking to probably expose some of that in this encounter.
Real Madrid have scored in 8 out of their last 9 games in all competitions, while PSG have scored in all 13 games that they have played in so far this campaign. My ruling is both teams will look for the net as offensive is more important than defence for them and we should see a tight but scoring game and I back both teams to score.