A crucial game, undoubtedly. We may be only two games into the group stages but the back to back fixtures against CSKA have the feel of games that may well ultimately decide the fortunes of both teams. We can wax lyrical all we like about Bayern but it would be a huge surprise were they not to go on to top the group, whilst Viktoria Plzen do not appear to have the quality to trouble the sides in the group. That leaves City and CSKA then to battle it out for progression alongside Bayern. City will be confident in having consecutive home games prior to the final day trip to Bayern and know if they return from Russia with all three points they will be big favourites to qualify.
So how will Manuel Pellegrini approach the game? You would think he would snap your hand off if offered four points from the two games but it is unlikely he will adopt a more cautious air to ensure City return with a point. Questions were asked over Pellegrini's approach in the wake of the defeat to Bayern but he has been consistent with his selection so far this season, seemingly wedded to his attacking approach (something I wrote about in my column for The Metro). Selection wise we shouldn't expect too much of a different line-up to the one we saw at West Ham, although Vincent Kompany remains on the sidelines but from an attacking perspective City are beginning to click so my guess is Pellegrini opts to keep the same front players.
How much of City's success is down to the form of David Silva and Sergio Aguero? Against West Ham City had 15 shots with Silva involved in 46.67% and Aguero 53.33% of them. Silva in particular has hit a purple patch the past couple of games to remind everyone that despite the talent City have in attack so much revolves around him and his ability to create and fashion opportunities. Aguero too is in a run of goalscoring form and it is no surprise that City are converting opportunities at a higher rate than they did last season where at times they struggled to convert.
The pitch appears to be a hot topic leading into the game with both Fernandinho and Pellegrini voicing concerns with City's boss labelling it 'unbelievable' and stating his surprise that UEFA have permitted the game to take place, given they were forced to switch their previous game against Viktoria Plzen. City's Manchester Evening News reporter Stuart Brenna tweeted a picture of the pitch earlier this afternoon:
Lot of sand on pitch, as City train pic.twitter.com/kfYZN9qCqR— Stuart Brennan (@StuBrennanMEN) October 22, 2013
Brennan also tweeted that it looked even worse from a higher vantage point and there is a real concern that if rain does fall over the next twenty-four hours that it could be virtually unplayable.
And with a nod to Suffering Bruin, we'll finish with a poll: