Roma vs CSKA Moscow – Tuesday, October 23, 20:00 BST/21:00 CEST/22:00 MSK – Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
Turn on social media nowadays, and it is impossible not to trip over some gushing, obsequious praise for Roma’s English language accounts. American billionaire owner Jim Pallotta laid out a plan to increase the club’s engagement with fans as they compete with more established international brands like Ronaldo’s Juventus and the Milan giants, and it has worked so far. Making the team heard on the pitch has also been a challenge, but one Eusebio Di Francesco has risen to magnificently in his tenure. Pushing Liverpool’s free-scoring entertainers all the way in a pulsating 7-6 aggregate defeat, they made their mark where they had had little expectation of making it.
They have found this season a whole different kettle of fish. They began the season with their worst start domestically in eight years, and although they have picked themselves up to beat bitter rivals Lazio and score 14 goals in just four games, they stumbled once more at the weekend to SPAL. It doesn’t get any easier for Eusebio Di Francesco’s men as they face Napoli, Sampdoria and Fiorentina in the league next with a trip to the Luzhniki to follow too, including four away games in their next five matches in all competitions, before hosting Real Madrid and Inter.
Breaking their Champions League record for largest winning margin last time in Rome was a major boost, however, so CSKA can forget about a comfortable tie. As the group lies, mathematically it is close after two matchdays, but Roma will be targeting this as arguably the most winnable of their remaining group-stage fixtures. Diego Perotti is out injured, but if truth be told neither will be a huge loss given the cover in their squad.
Despite crashing out to Siberian powerhouses FC Tyumen in the Russian Cup a fortnight ago, CSKA Moscow’s season is turning out to be a thrilling renaissance. Fedor Chalov can’t stop scoring after finally arriving as the undisputed first-choice striker – eight goals in his last eight league games, not to mention scoring consistently for Russia’s under-21 side. Despite losing the entire experienced spine of their team and suffering the worst injury problems in the Russian Premier League, they are still in the Champions League qualification places.
The historic win over Real Madrid was no fluke either. Viktor Goncharenko’s game plan allowed for the predictable lack of possession by utilising the energy of his youthful players and trusting his selection to include enough players comfortable on the ball. Nikola Vlasic has been electric in midfield to support Chalov, constantly looking for a forward pass or movement instead of being content with recycling possession cautiously. He has scored in both Champions League games so far and will be a key part of the setup in Rome.
At the start of this campaign, it was widely expected that CSKA would be content with aiming for third place in the group to sneak into the Europa League ahead of Viktoria Plzen. Two of last season’s final four teams in this competition were surely too much for the Muscovites to contend with. That stunning win against Real has suddenly changed the complexion of the group entirely. While it would be foolish to expect CSKA to reach the knockout stages, that expectation would look decidedly less foolish if Roma can be contained.
Roma vs CSKA Moscow – Players to Watch
Lorenzo Pellegrini #7 – AS Roma
Roma’s stuttering start to this season has overshadowed the threat posed by Lorenzo Pellegrini. Snatched up from Sassuolo last summer, the Italian international has the potential to become a complete midfielder with his speed of the mark and eye for goal. His creativity in the middle allows for attacks to spring more fluidly and must be countered of CSKA hold hops of stemming the flow of service to Roma’s wide players. In eight overall appearances in all competitions this season, he has only registered three assists and scored once, but in just over 100 minutes of Champions League action, he has already made nine key passes.
Ilzat Akhmetov #77 – CSKA Moscow
It is remarkable how the career of Ilzat Akhmetov has turned around in the last 12 months. Having grown up through the Rubin Kazan youth ranks as a precocious, electric attacking midfielder, he fell foul of the club’s management by refusing to sign a new contract last season and was frozen out. Since his move to CSKA Moscow, however, he has revitalised his career stunningly to become a calm central midfielder with a previously unseen composure on the ball. His reinvention has come about partly through Goncharenko’s vision to see his passing qualities, and the comfort with which he faced up against the European champions Real Madrid last time out was enthralling.
Roma vs CSKA Moscow – Match Stats
- Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their four encounters
- The Italians have won six out of eight total meetings with Russian opposition including CSKA
- Roma won five of their six home European matches last season, and recorded their record win last time out this season against Viktoria Plzen
- The Italians have already had 12 different goalscorers this season
- CSKA have won just once against Italian opposition in the Champions League
- CSKA won five of their eight European away matches last season, but have won just one of their last five including this season’s opener against Viktoria Plzen
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Roma vs CSKA Moscow – 2-1
Roma vs CSKA Moscow – Possible Lineups
Olsen – Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov – Lorenzo Pellegrini, N’Zonzi – El Shawaary, Pastore, Kluivert – Dzeko
Manager: Eusebio Di Francesco
Pomazun – Magnusson, Becao, Chernov – Fernandes, Bijol, Akhmetov, Dzagoev, Nababkin – Vlasic – Chalov
Manager: Viktor Goncharenko
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.