It was a week to forget for Julen Lopetegui’s men. First the mid-week round of fixtures which ended with an embarrassing 3-0 thrashing against Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán, where Real managed a mediocre three attempts on target from 21.
Fast forward three days to the feisty Madrid Derby at the Santiago Bernabéu, a game which was always going to be tough considering the fact that Los Blancos have failed to beat Atleti in this fixture at home since their 2-0 victory back in the 2012–13 season. It now leaves a wide open Spanish title race, with the football betting odds as intriguing as ever.
Either side could have walked away with victory but in the end the points were shared, making it an uncharacteristic two La Liga games without victory for Madrid, something they will be looking to put behind them in Moscow this week.
The holders who have won the competition for the past last three seasons started their record 49th European Cup campaign brightly with a convincing 3-0 triumph over last seasons semi-finalists Roma thanks to goals from Isco, Gareth Bale and a first goal in the white of Real Madrid for Mariano Diaz. Whilst CSKA’s opening game ended with a 2-2 draw against Czech side Viktoria Plzeň after a last gasp penalty capped a dramatic comeback placing them second in the group.
Real have a two-point lead in group G with a far superior goal difference and with recent La Liga results far from satisfactory, CSKA - who have struggled at home this season - will need to be on their game to prevent this Madrid side hungry for a victory from running riot in Russia after failing to score in both of their last two games.
History tells us that Spanish visitors don’t usually come out on top at the VEB Arena. CSKA have drawn three and won one of their four fixtures against Spanish teams in European competitions.
Real themselves have only ever met CSKA in the Champions League on two previous occasions, back in 2012 when Jose Mourinho's galacticos drew 1-1 in the first leg before easing through at the Bernabéu with the tie ending 5-2 on aggregate thanks to an impressive second leg showing from Cristiano Ronaldo who scored twice, with further two goals coming from Gonzalo Higuaín and Karim Benzema. Mourinho’s men went on to reach the semi-finals before losing to Bayern München.
A lot has changed since these two-last faced off in the Champions League. Benzema and Sergio Ramos are the only remaining players at Madrid from the squad that featured on that cold February evening whilst their best performer in Russia, Cristiano Ronaldo, recently joined Juventus in a €100m transfer and man of the match Pontus Wernbloom now plays for PAOK in the Greek Super League after joining back in August on a free transfer.
Real who are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, could be without Marcelo who picked up a calf injury against Sevilla, Isco has been missing with appendicitis and Gareth Bale could also be a doubt after the Welshman was replaced at half-time during the Madrid Derby and is awaiting tests.