Real Madrid looking to turn up the heat in Moscow against CSKA

Real Madrid return to Champions League action tonight, when they take on CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium in the competition’s knock-out stage. Jose Mourinho’s side maintained their 10-point lead over Barcelona in La Liga at the weekend and will be looking to remain on course to become European champions for the 10th time.

Los Blancos have never faced CSKA before, but the Moscow club’s Coach, Leonid Slutski, will be out for revenge on Mourinho, whose Inter Milan side beat them in a Champions League quarter-final in 2010 on their way to lifting the trophy. It was the furthest CSKA have progressed in the competition, but Inter won both legs 1-0. The Portuguese also met CSKA in his first season at Chelsea in the 2004-05 group stage, the Londoners winning 3-0 on aggregate.

Madrid have triumphed on their last two visits to Russia, Ronaldo hitting the only goal of the game as Vicente del Bosque’s Madrid overcame Lokomotiv Moscow in the 2002-03 Champions League. More recently, a 2-1 win at Zenit St Petersburg in the 2008-09 competition came courtesy of an own goal by Zenit’s Tomas Hubocan and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s winner.

Mourinho’s men stormed through the group stage in this season’s competition, winning all six of their games, scoring 19 goals and conceding only two. They kept clean sheets in all their away matches, beating Dinamo Zagreb 1-0, Lyon 2-0 and Ajax 3-0, but CSKA will draw their own inspiration from an undefeated record in five previous encounters with Spanish opposition.

The Army Men eliminated Sevilla in the last 16 two years ago with a 2-1 win at the Sanchez Pizjuan with goals from Tomas Necid and Keisuke Honda either side of one from Diego Perotti. The first leg in Moscow had ended 1-1, former Real Betis winger Mark Gonzalez equalising for CSKA after Alvaro Negredo had given Sevilla the lead.

Los Blancos arrived in the Russian capital on Sunday to temperatures of minus 15 degrees, having travelled without winger Angel Di Maria. The Argentine scored in Madrid’s 4-0 win over Racing on Saturday but ended the match with muscular bruising after colliding with Racing’s Christian Fernandez. Lassana Diarra and Hamit Altintop, with back and calf injuries respectively, have also been left out of Mourinho’s squad to face CSKA.

CSKA expect tonight’s clash to attract a crowd of around 72,000, which would be their record attendance at the Luzhniki. Home fans’ hopes will be pinned on Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia, who has scored 12 goals in CSKA’s last ten games, while his teammates mustered only seven between them in that time. Doumbia was also on target five times in as many Champions League group matches, including in the decisive 2-1 win at Inter that secured his side a place in the last 16.

Currently in second position in the Russian Premier-Liga, CSKA are coming towards the end of their long winter break, part of which has been spent in Spain, with training camps in Murcia and Marbella. The Army Men are due to resume league action on March 3, when they face leaders Zenit. Before then, Slutski is eager to renew his acquaintance with Mourinho and expressed his delight at being paired with Los Blancos while avoiding the reigning champions.

“While it is absolutely impossible to play Barcelona, I believe we can match Madrid,” the CSKA Coach commented when the last 16 draw was made in December. “We are in for two exciting and prestigious matches, both for the club and the players. We don’t play one of the best teams in the world every day.”

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