CSKA had their match on Saturday against Spartak Moscow suspended over flares, and once play resumed, they lost the Main Moscow Derby 3-1. Manager Leonid Slutsky deploys an incredibly conservative style (as Russia manager this summer, his primary accomplishment was making them the worst team to watch at Euro 2016), which will need to be shaken up to get out of the group. Luckily, Group E is tight and a win against group leaders Monaco would have them level on points against the French side. Monaco sit in second in Ligue 1 (courtesy of Mario Balotelli firing Nice into first) and managed only a 1-1 draw against Saint-Etienne over the weekend. It was clear that this tie was manager Leonardo Jardim's priority, as Radamel Falcao started from the bench. Last time these teams faced off, Igor Akinfeev nearly ended his run of 40 Champions League matches without a clean sheet, before Bernardo Silva scored an equalizer with four minutes remaining. Should he manage to end the streak this time around, Group E would become the most fascinating of the competition.
Runners-up in the Champions League in 1994, the principality’s club spent last season in the Europa league while finishing third in Ligue 1. Monaco struggled to find a reliable threat up top last season with Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar joint top scorers in the league with five goals apiece. To that end, Falcao is back from his disappointing loans in the Premier League with hopes to revive his career. Otherwise, Les Rouges et Blancs will look to the Portuguese duo of João Moutinho and the aforementioned Silva to control matches and create chances. They’ll face a difficult, but not impossible group which will include a trip to Moscow and matchups against Spurs and Bayer Leverkusen.
Last season, CSKA brought the Russian Premier League back to Moscow, making it their third title in four years. They managed to do so on the back of only 51 goals, 11 of which came from their leading scorer, Ahmed Musa, who is now at Leicester City. In the Champions League, they finished bottom in a group that included Manchester United, Wolfsburg, and PSV Eindhoven, scoring five goals across six matches. While goals may be scarce, they’ll be solid defensively with Russia’s most-capped player Sergei Ignashevich, in central defense and Igor Akinfeev in goal.
The versatile midfielder has made nearly 100 appearances for both the Portuguese national team and Monaco.
Scored 11 goals in 19 appearances in his last season at Monaco, before being injured in halfway through the season.