After a difficult trip to Moscow two weeks ago, Monaco return to the Stade Louis II hoping that it will be CSKA that have a little homesickness this time around. With Group E only getting tighter, as only three points separate top from bottom, the principality side know just how vital the three points will be.
However, the Russians are also acutely aware that nothing less than a win could push them too far behind in the race for qualification. Both sides need the points, only one team will come away happy and that can only mean this could be a very exciting affair.
João Moutinho is absent after picking up an injury in the reverse fixture two weeks ago. The Portuguese international joins long-term absentees Nabil Dirar and Almamy Toure on the sidelines.
Manager Leonardo Jardim has a wealth of attacking options to pick from, with Kylian Mbappe’s father expressing his son’s desire for more game time, which he has been given in Ligue 1. Despite that, it could be Valere Germain and Colombian forward Radamel Falcao who start in the Champions League.
CSKA have both Roman Eremenko and Alan Dzagoev missing again through suspension and injury respectively. Manager Leonid Slutsky will likely name the same starting eleven from the draw in Moscow, with Monaco loanee Lacina Traore starting up front.
The Russians also come into this fixture in a bad patch of form, having lost five of their past eight games which includes a 3-1 defeat to same-city rivals Spartak at the weekend. However, Slutsky has urged his players to “keep calm” in order to get a good result this evening.
Kylian Mbappe (AS Monaco) – The 17-year-old forward is a real talent and since receiving more game time in the past few weeks, he’s shown that he can add an extra dynamism to Monaco’s attacking play.
His pace adds something that the other two striking options simply don’t have, which stretches teams and forces them to stand off him. Combine that with some good finishing ability and it becomes difficult to see why Jardim has held him back so far.
Regardless of if he starts or comes off the bench, Mbappe will make the difference. Whether it’s scoring or stretching the opponents late on to allow others more space, his introduction should spark a Monaco victory.
Lacina Traore (CSKA Moscow) – The big Ivorian needed no extra motivation last time out, playing his parent club was just about as much as he needed. Traore put himself about, physically imposing himself on the Monaco back line and also got himself involved with the build-up play.
His 2.03m frame certainly makes for an ideal target man and he proved to be just that in the reverse fixture. He held onto the ball well, allowing the fast attacking players around him to play higher up the pitch and he got onto the end of a well-deserved opener.
They always say better the devil you know, so Monaco cannot be blindsided by his performance again.
It was mentioned in the introduction that both teams need a victory and without either being in scintillating form, it can be a little difficult to separate them. However, in the first game, it was clear that CSKA ran out of steam in the second half once Monaco settled more for their style and how they planned to attack.
With that in mind and Jardim undoubtedly pressing the importance of a win here to set up a great chance in the final two games, Monaco come out with the victory. Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar take advantage of a slow CSKA back line that’s pushed too far up for the win and Monaco put at least a toe into the next round.
Result: AS Monaco 2-0 CSKA Moscow