The Champions League is always a fascinating competition, pitting a wide variety of teams against one another to often unpredictable results. Case in point: Group B in this year's competition, featuring these two teams, Manchester United and CSKA Moscow, as well as two other very good sides in PSV and VfL Wolfsburg. All four teams are dead even in the table right now, with three points apiece and all on zero goal differential. The first two rounds of matches in this group have been wildly entertaining and unpredictable -- what's
For Manchester and CSKA, this battle in Russia could be quite a brawl. With the group so even, whoever wins this match should get an important leg up in the standings. With no one able to get any separation in the group, whoever gets even a little bit might be able to carry that through to the end. Manchester United might have more talent in their side, but CSKA Moscow have the home field advantage -- and in the Champions League, with this much on the line, all bets are off. We could see something really special today.
Key CSKA Moscow player -- Alan Dzagoev
Once one of the brightest, can't-miss talents in Europe, Dzagoev has just kind of ... stalled. He hasn't really gotten any better in several years, and we've long been wondering when he would finally step forward and become the player we all thought he could be. He's finally showing some signs of that, though, as one of CSKA's best players in a league campaign that's so far undefeated, as well as a top performer in their win over PSV in the Champions League. If he can keep taking steps forward, he might be exactly what CSKA need to get the win today.
Key Manchester United player -- Chris Smalling
Smalling has had a surprisingly strong season for Manchester United. Once one of the most derided members of their defense, he's been arguably the top performer at the back for them over the last two months. Smalling has still had moments when he's looked shaky and not up to the standard he's shown most of the time, however, often leaving Manchester fans nervous against teams with plenty of attacking talent like CSKA. Smalling needs to be at his best today, because Moscow can bring pressure from so many areas that Manchester's midfield and his defensive teammates may have trouble keeping up. If anything gets through, he needs to be alert and ready to stop it.
CSKA Moscow injuries and suspensions
Out: Bibras Natcho (concussion)
Manchester United injuries and suspensions
Out: Luke Shaw (broken leg), Ashley Young (calf), Patrick McNair (stomach), James Wilson (illness)
Manchester have several players out, but other than Shaw -- who's out for the season -- all of them are reserves. Since this is an all-hands-on-deck type of match for thew starters, that shouldn't hurt them too much, with the possible exception of the super-sub ability of Young. The absence of Natcho for CSKA, though, could hurt as his energetic presence in midfield is a vital one for them.
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, 9:45 p.m. local
Venue: Arena Khimki, Moscow, Russia
TV: Fox Sports 2 (U.S.), NTV+ Football, NTV Russia (Russia), BT Sport Europe (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go, Fox Sports Go (U.S.), NTV+ Sport Online (Russia), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.)