Drawing CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League seemed like relatively close to a worst-case scenario for Real Madrid. They are not the strongest team remaining in the competition, but away trips to places like Moscow in February are worst-case scenarios for everyone. Benfica had their unbeaten run snapped last week in St. Petersburg, while Roma's season took a nosedive last year when they had to deal with Shakhtar Donetsk.
The good news for Real Madrid is that this is not the strongest possible CSKA side. There has been one major player sale since the draw, with Vagner Love moving on to Flamengo in Brazil. Igor Akinfeev, Keisuke Honda, Tomas Necid and Mark Gonzalez are still out with long-term injury problems.
For Madrid, though, the most relevant absentee could be CSKA right back Kirill Nababkin. Not only is Cristiano Ronaldo going to be popping up on that flank, but Marcelo and/or Fabio Coentrao as well, writes Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.
One of the key weaknesses Mourinho will seek to exploit is CSKA's vulnerability at right back, due in part to the continuous injury woes of Kirill Nababkin. For example, does Mourinho select Marcelo at left back and allow him license to attack as freely as he did against Racing, helping Cristiano Ronaldo wreak havoc down the left?
I thought Marcelo's performance against Racing on Saturday (albeit an admittedly weak side) was phenomenal. He was instinctive on when to press the attack, made relentless runs forward and provided excellent service. Los blancos strength and fluidity on the left side of the pitch looks to provide a tremendous advantage in this tie.
For more on Los Merengues, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.