After the scoreless draw of last week in Belgrade, the battle for a place in the eighth finals of the Europa League between CSKA Moscow and Red Star Belgrade is still completely open. The decision falls Wednesday evening in the VEB Arena in the Russian capital.
CSKA Moscow :
For both CSKA Moscow and Red Star Belgrade, the first leg of last week meant the first competitive match of 2018. The Serbian competition was resumed this weekend, while the Russian competition will start again in March after a long winter break. In a rainy Belgrade, neither team knew how to make the difference. CSKA Moscow had a slight dominance, but real opportunities were not able to create the Russians. Red Star Belgrade played well organized and the Serbian rear guard was like a house.
CSKA Moscow is of course obliged to reach the next round of the Europa League, but the Russians play with fire on Wednesday-evening. In case of a counterstay, the men of trainer Viktor Goncharenko will have to score at least twice. In addition, the European home balance of the Russians with only five victories in the last eighteen European home games gives little confidence. CSKA Moscow did not have to go into action last weekend and will appear relatively fresh on Wednesday-evening, but can not have the suspended midfielder Aleksandr Golovin in the return. It is likely that former AZ-player Pontus Wernbloom will be pushed forward a bit further. Aleksei Berezutski will probably also have to leave because of injuries.
FK Crvena zvezda :
For Red Star Belgrade, reaching the eighth finals of the Europa League would mean a world achievement. The last time the Serbs were active in the knockout phase after the winter break was in the historic 1-2 victory over Bayern Munich in the then European Cup II in the 1990-1991 season. The Serbian leader, however, is doing surprisingly well in the Europa League this season. Red Star Belgrade only had to win once in the group stage in a group with, among others, Arsenal and Köln. That was mainly due to the strong rear guard, who only had to take a shot at six group matches. Even when visiting Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, the Serviers managed to pull a scoreless draw from the fire. Handsome work by the team of trainer Vladan Milojevic.
In contrast to CSKA Moscow, Red Star Belgrade came into action last weekend, although Milojevic mainly appealed to its reserves. Despite this, poor Javor Ivanjica was simply thrown out 3-0, leading the league-leader in the Serbian Super League to maintain the comfortable lead of nine points over arch-rival Partizan Belgrade. Red Star Belgrade had an excellent dress rehearsal, although the Serbs have to make it Wednesday night without attacker Richmond Boakye. The Ghanaian goalt thief (fifteen goals in fourteen games) is in the rag basket. The Serbian hope for a much desired goal in Moscow is therefore mainly on the shoulders of Aleksandar Pesic (nineteen goals in 23 matches).
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