By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy
Manchester United return to the scene of their 2008 Champions League triumph looking for a second away win over CSKA Moscow in exactly six years on Wednesday (9.45pm).
United, who won their third crown when they beat Chelsea on penalties at the Luzhniki Stadium in May 2008, returned to the Russian capital on October 21, 2009 and beat CSKA 1-0 with a late goal by Antonio Valencia.
The Red Devils will be looking to repeat that victory at a different venue, the Arena Khimki, as the Luzhniki is under reconstruction for the 2018 World Cup finals.
United will travel to Moscow in good heart after an excellent 3-0 win away to Everton kept them third in the Premier League at the weekend.
Manager Louis van Gaal was delighted with that return to form following a defeat by the same score away to Arsenal in the previous game.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney scored the goals, with Rooney once again playing just behind new young striker Anthony Martial, who has made a fine impression since joining from AS Monaco in the close-season.
“Maybe it is the start of many, many victories. I am not stupid, I won’t change too much on Wednesday,” said Van Gaal, who left out fellow Dutchmen Danny Blind and Memphis Depay at the weekend following the Netherlands’ failure to qualify for Euro 2016.
While United may have one eye on next Sunday’s local derby against Manchester City, they would do well not to underestimate a CSKA side who have been in excellent form domestically as well.
CSKA are unbeaten in their last 19 matches in the Russian Premier League, equalling a club record set in 2001, and beat Ural 3-2 on Saturday to stay five points clear of second placed Lokomotiv Moscow.
However, head coach Leonid Slutskiy has been critical of his team’s performance.
“Unfortunately we are unable to fully control the whole match,” said the 44-year-old, who in August also started to coach the Russian national team.
CSKA will be without Bibras Natcho who is suffering from a head injury, but fellow midfielder Roman Eremenko is expected to be fit following a groin strain. Experienced central defender Vasili Berezutski is also expected to return.
Russian international goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev will be hoping for an upturn in fortunes. CSKA’s captain is looking to end an unwanted record, having failed to keep a clean sheet in 33 consecutive appearances in the Champions League.