CSKA Moscow vs Man Utd preview, betting tips and predictions: Pace could lead to big win for Red Devils in Russia

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Manchester United to win 2-0 @ 13/2 with Betfair

Manchester United to win in both halves @ 9/5 with Betfair

Score draw @ 4/1 with Betfair

Manchester United have swept past almost every opponent so far this season, sitting joint top of the Premier League with rivals City. They have also taken to the Champions League like ducks to water, and could open a healthy lead at the top of their group with victory in Moscow on Wednesday night.

They could be about to face their toughest challenge yet, though. CSKA are no strangers to this stage of Europe’s premier club competition, and on their home patch, they’ll be confident they can halt Jose Mourinho’s progress this season. The Russians went to Benfica, a team with one of the most formidable home records in Europe, and won 2-1. The Portuguese side were viewed as the Red Devils’ main threat at this stage of the competition, but perhaps that may have to be rethought, especially if they cause something of an upset in this one.

Paul Pogba suffered a rather serious muscular injury in United’s last Champions League game, a 3-0 win at home to FC Basel. Since he has been out, his absence has been noticeable; Mourinho’s men lack the same conviction in midfield without the strength and technique of the Frenchman. It has become the crucial difference in their play this season, helping them break down low defensive blocks at Old Trafford and forcing the issue on the counter attack away from home.

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Without him, United failed to stamp their authority on the game against Everton until late on, despite an early goal and the final score being a resounding 4-0. He is the only man who offers that kind of impetus to the side, and with Marouane Fellaini his likely replacement; Mourinho is likely to go more direct. This will slow the game down, because there is no need for CSKA to press high. Space in behind will therefore be tougher to come by for the visitors, meaning the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial may be suited to the game because of the hosts’ aging defence and their willingness to take players on and get close to striker Romelu Lukaku.

United will hope to start quickly in order to edge away with the game, but the longer it stays level, the more CSKA will grow into it. Should they score early, there will not be many issues, and with Mourinho’s ability to manage games, a win in both halves seems likely at 9/5 with Betfair.

Key battle: Nemanja Matic vs Alan Dzagoev

Even without Pogba, United have maintained their robust presence in midfield because of Matic. The Serb has offered something they didn’t have last season, protection for defence, allowing the attackers to be more expansive in their pkay. CSKA’s biggest threat is likely to come from talented Russian Alan Dzagoev, a player once tipped for the top. His dribbling ability makes him the hub of the team.

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Dzagoev will constantly look to turn Matic and run at the United defence, and his linkup play with Aaron Olanare up front will allow CSKA to get reinforcements in attack. Keeping him quiet will go a long way to getting the win for United, and that will be Matic’s main responsibility.

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