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Villa draw CSKA Moscow


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Villa went into today's UEFA draw knowing they would be drawn against one of 6 different opponents. In the end they got a toughie.

Of the 6 teams, 3 of them would be considerably more difficult than the others. Of the difficult teams there would be Belgian side Standard Liege who tormented Merseyside, first almost knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League then making mince meat of Everton in the UEFA Cup. There could be Udinese who have established themselves as a top half Serie 'A' side in recent years and who handily took care of Spurs in their group stage or there would be CSKA Moscow who have become a powerhouse in Russian football over the past 7 years, not to mention the weather in Russia adding to that difficulty.

In the end Villa were drawn against CSKA Moscow. By no stretch an easy tie for various reasons, but also one we can look forward to with excitement. Make no mistake, the UEFA Cup proper starts here.

Let's take a look at our opponents and our prospects.

Champions of the new (17 season old) Russian Premier League on 3 occasions (Spartak lead with 9) but those 3 have all come in the last 6 seasons. Champions in 2003, 2005 and again in 2006. They've also come 2nd three times in the past 7 seasons - 2002, 2004 & most recently this season. Only once have they come outside the top 2 in that time and that was 3rd in 2007 when eventual UEFA Cup winners Zenit St.Petersburg won the league. So there is absolutely no denying CSKA have form and class and, as I said, are now definitely one of the powerhouses in Russian football.

Of CSKA's players the most recognisable name will be Brazilian striker Vágner Love, seemingly forever linked with a big money move away - and again it is not guaranteed that he will still be wearing the red & blue of CSKA by the time the first leg comes around on February 18th or 19th. He is the biggest goal threat and indeed was the top scorer in the Premier League this season just gone with 20 goals. CSKA's goalkeeper is the really quite excellent Igor Akinfeev who, at only 22, is also the captain of the side. He has been the national team's first choice keeper too since he was only 19 and is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. Yuri Zhirkov is a very accomplished left winger who has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or and was one of the stars of Euro 2008 being selected in the overall team of the competition. A very very dangerous player who is called the Russian Ronaldinho and, along with Love, poses the biggest threat to Villa. Finally, we have it on good authority that youngster Alan Dzagoev is one to watch too. The 18 year old midfielder burst onto the scene in 2008 and immediately won 'young player of the year'. He has recently been called up to the Russian national squad after only 1 season in the top flight.

On to the other reasons why CSKA will be tough. Firstly the weather. It will be cold in Moscow in February. Very very cold. In fact February is the coldest month of the year in Moscow where temperatures can go as low as minus 15 celsius or just 5 degrees fahrenheit. So the boys will need to acclimatise and probably bring the gloves. Hope Ash has enough to go around!!

The other reason is the notorious plastic pitch, sorry 'FieldTurf' artificial pitch.

CSKA play in the Luzhniki Stadium with a capacity of 78,000 which installed said surface in 2002 and it has been causing visiting teams no end of headaches ever since. Including the English national team who recently went there and lost 2-1 amid much controversy in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifying tie. This will undoubtedly be a big advantage for CSKA and another reason why Villa will need to get there and get training on the pitch as much as they can. Though it could actually benefit our speed merchants if you can figure it all out in time.

The one good thing, and it is quite a significant good thing, is that the Russian league runs from March until November, so CSKA will be in pre-season training for the upcoming season. They will not be 100% match fit much like we were not 100% for our Intertoto campaign. As much training as you do, it is not a substitute for competitive football and we will hopefully have the edge in sharpness. Those who claim CSKA will be 'rested' can surely not ignore that this Thursday just gone will be CSKA's final competitive game until they play us! That's a long time to be doing training drills.

I think we can say that this lot will need to be taken a lot more seriously than what has gone before now in this competition. Though Villa can be confident. We've only really used our full team once so far in Europe and that was against Ajax in a home win. When we've needed to do the biz we've used the big guns and we have done it. Our players are full of belief and are now no longer afraid of our own top 4 based on recent results and comments. So why be afraid of CSKA?

There is no doubting CSKA are one of the toughest, possibly THE toughest, opponent we could have hoped for. But one thing is also for sure. When CSKA were looking at their potential opponents they were probably not relishing a tie against a team currently residing in the champions league places of (statistically) the best league in Europe. They should fear us too. This tie is evenly balanced and I would not put money on who will go through. The carrot for us is a potential tie against Premier League Spurs in the last 16 assuming they themselves can navigate a tricky trip to the Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk.

This competition just got a lot more interesting for Villa. Roll on February.

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Interesting stuff alright.

Hopefully CSKA will move the game to Krasnodar and we'll get to play it on grass.

Two of the last three UEFA cups have been won by Russian teams, and we'll need to be very very careful of these.

I wonder if the former head of the US marines will be headed to Moscow?

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I think is really, really exciting to be playing against another "proper" European team. Cant wait. Tough game, but they're all tough, and we have no reason to fear anyone at all. There is always a tendency to focus on the opposition - yes they have two or three superb young stars of the Russian national team, but Aston Villa has two or three superb young stars of the English national team. Really looking forward to it

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That is the best front page article I have read in ages. Thanks so much BOF. **** BRILLIANT.

This UEFA match will be the most interesting of all of them, even if I wasn't a C&B supporter I would say this..

Agreed :thumb:

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