Slutsky: CSKA & Manchester City scrapping for second place

The Russian coach feels that his side's double-header against the English outfit will effectively decide who progressed to the last 16 of Europe's premier cup competition
By Andrew Wychrij

Leonid Slutsky feels that CSKA Moscow and Manchester City are essentially scrapping for second place behind Bayern Munich in Champions League Group D.

The two teams are locked together on three points apiece, with both having lost to the Bavarians but beaten Viktoria Plzen.

So, with Bayern in such dominant form, Slutsky feels that CSKA's double-header against City will effectively decide who progresses to the last 16 with Pep Guardiola's men.

"Definitely," he told Goal. "Our chances of reaching knockout stages will be clear after matches against City. And City are a big club with no weak points.

"The most obvious examples are the left-back and right-back positions. On the right flank, Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta have equal chances to be in the line-up, on the left side, Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy.

"It's tough to say who out of those is stronger than others. City are strong across the board."

Slutsky is particularly envious of such strength in depth as he has been forced to prepare for the visit of the affluent Premier League outfit without a number of key players.

"We would have liked to play with all the footballers who are injured today," he admitted. "Our team would me stronger with [Rasmus] Elm, [Alan] Dzagoev and [Mario] Fernandes.

"But we don't control the calendar and will try to secure necessary result with players available."

CSKA are also in poor form, having won just one of their last six games in all competitions. However, Slutsky is hoping that his players can rise to the occasion.

"The discussion about the reasons for our results would be too long and deep and I think there's no sense in dwelling on it," he reasoned.

"Concerning our approach for the game, this season there has been no time to change anything because we have a match every three-to-four days, so the main task has been to continuously help the players recover and regain fitness through recovering training sessions.

"This game will define our chances in Champions League, and that by itself is a big motivating factor."

However, Slutsky confessed that even if CSKA were to get the better of City and progress to the last 16, he does not feel they would be capable of going any further.

"I think that the UEFA club coefficient rankings are pretty much objective," he explained. "In the last few years Russian clubs have passed the group stage three times: CSKA reached the last-16 twice and Zenit once.

"Our best result was reaching the quarterfinals [in the 2009-10 season], and it that may well be the maximum for Russian clubs for the moment."