Champions League Preview: BSC Young Boys – CSKA Moscow

Georgi Shchennikov celebrating his late goal in the derby v Spartak. Source: CSKA

First Playoff Round, First Leg: Young Boys vs Old Boys?

Young Boys

By @FootballSwiss

It was a mixed pre-season for Young Boys as they achieved some memorable wins and less than memorable defeats as they geared up for the new season. Lower league side Breitenrain, Salzburg and Russian side Grozny all defeated YB with Akhmat winning 4-1 at the beginning of the July.

YB only managed two wins during their preparations with those coming against Wacker Innsbruck of Austria and more impressively, a 5-1 dismantling of Benfica in the Uhrencup which provided the perfect end to their pre-season. A 2-2 draw with Stoke City in the same competition was another good result for the club before the season opener with Basel.

There were no doubts that YB was stronger than previous seasons, but their win over Basel at home in Round One got the club off to a flying start and two further wins would follow over Grasshoppers and Lausanne with the club keeping clean sheets in both. The 1-3 defeat in Kyiv to Dynamo was the only blip, but they even managed to turn that around and secure this match with CSKA after a late winner to defeat the Ukrainians by a 2-0 scoreline at the Stade de Suisse.

Nine goals, zero conceded and with struggling Thun next, YB seemed certain to continue their run, but they fell apart in a 4-0 defeat against a far more clinical side on the night. It was a reminder of the defensive frailties that YB can have, which were also evident against Kyiv, and certainly took away some of that unbeatable aura that had enveloped the club at the start of the season. There is also something very “YB” about the team losing 4-0 after such a dominant start to the season. A 3-0 win over Breitenrain in the cup, revenge of course for the pre-season defeat, at least got YB back to winning ways ahead of their tie with CSKA.

Tactical Approach

YB have kept it relatively simple tactics wise so far. All four league games have seen them employ a 4-4-2 formation. They also used it in the home leg vs. Dynamo in the last round of the Champions League. The only times they have gone for something different was the 4-1-4-1 used in Ukraine in which the strategy was, of course, different and the 3-4-1-2 that they used in the Swiss Cup vs. Breitenrain. A change of formation there was perhaps not too surprising given the opposition. Super League vs. the third tier always allows some degree of flexibility when it comes to the lineup.

4-4-2 keeps it pretty simple, but allows YB to effectively utilize most of their firepower with Ravet, Fassnacht, Hoarau and Assale all predominantly featured and Jean-Pierre Nsame also a regular feature from the bench. Even the 4-1-4-1 formation used in Kyiv allowed Hoarau as the lone striker up front with Ravet and Fassnacht providing plenty of attacking power on the wings.

I’d be surprised if YB doesn’t go for the same 4-4-2 formation at home, but I’d probably expect something different in Moscow depending upon the result.

Key Players

Christian Fassnacht 

A player that I really like and has made quite the impact so far in his first season at YB. A steal from FC Thun at one million, he was a star player for them last season. He scored ten goals and assisted six times for a side that was only the fourth highest scorers in the league and always provided a threat for them.

So far since signing, he has already scored 2 goals in 4 league appearances, assisting once and scoring that all important away goal in Kyiv in the first leg. He seems to be thriving in Bern and on current form he should be certain to start.

Roger Assale

He wouldn’t make everyone’s list, but he is a ball of energy. You probably won’t find a more energetic, enthusiastic player on the pitch on Tuesday evening and his speed, trickery and desire will surely cause CSKA problems at the back. He provides good fodder for Hoarau and will make things happen for YB if he is on his game.

He hasn’t yet got off the mark this season, but he scored six goals in thirteen last season so evidently has goal scoring ability and he has already provided a crucial assist in the Champions League with that away goal assist for Fassnacht in the first leg.

Guillaume Hoarau

He will start on Tuesday, make no mistake about that. He is the most crucial player that YB have, he brings vast experience, he is always a threat and now in his third-year in Bern, he is the main man. 17 goals in his first season, 18 in his next two and already off the mark this season, the big Frenchman spells danger for CSKA and they must stop Hoarau to ensure a favourable result in the first leg at least.

He kept his cool to score a penalty in the last round under extreme pressure and scored 5 goals in 4 appearances during YB’s Europa League campaign last season. To put into context how important he is –  last season he was injured for 7 games. YB drew 3 of them with a 0-0 scoreline and failed to score in another. He would score all but two of YB’s seven goals in the Group Stage last season.

Predicted Lineup

Von Ballmoos (GK) – Mbabu, von Bergen, Nuhu, Benito/Lotomba – Fassnacht, Sanogo, Sow, Sulejmani/Ravet – Hoarau, Assale (4-4-2). Manager: Adi Hütter.


CSKA Moscow

By @CSKAIndonesia

The 2017-18 season is very much a roller-coaster for CSKA so far. After a month-long period of summer training camp in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria, the Muscovites found a way to defeat Anzhi 3-1 in Kaspiysk for the opening weekend. What happened next is a series of shocks and reliefs as they managed to eliminate AEK Athens with a clean sheet in the UCL Qualifying Round but got humiliated by both Lokomotiv and Rubin at their home soil, the VEB-Arena. It looks like the exact problems are looming over the Army Men; surely their offensive and defensive lines are their weak points. As we can see, from 8 official matches, CSKA netted 14; which means they nearly scored 2 goals per match. What’s worrying their fans is the fact that only 3 goals came from their current strikers, Vitinho (2) and Olanare (1). Neither the defensive nor the offensive lines got much attention from the management as CSKA has signed no one to Leningrad Prospekt. Without a doubt, both Ignasevich and the Berezutskiys are still physically fit and capable, but they lack speed and anticipation as age consumes them. Nonetheless, the strong connection on the second line would save CSKA’s hope as usual. Dzagoev-Golovin-Werbloom or Natkho with backup from Shchennikov and Fernandes would somehow find a way to secure a victory over their opponents.

Tactical Approach

Once Leonid Slutsky left office, the management appointed Viktor Goncharenko to take his place. The Belarusian manager re-introduced the forgotten 3-5-2 to the Muscovites. Ignasevich and the Berezutskiys won’t find any difficulties on this scheme as they served Valery Gazzaev well on the exact tactics from 2004 until 2008, and Viktor Vasin performed well under Goncharenko at both Ufa and CSKA under this approach last season. Neither Fernandes nor Shchennikov would complain at their role as wingers since their new position allows them to roam the field without forgetting their original role as defenders. Both Dzagoev and Golovin have also benefited from this scheme as they are positioned as the central midfielder, right behind the two strikers, the key position where they could exploit the opponent’s weakness.

Key Players

Igor Akinfeev

No words needed for the goalkeeper; this magnificent player has served CSKA very well. Akinfeev dismissed the discordant voice over his performance for Sbornaya by kept his net clean for 3 consecutive matches before a minor injury struck him. The absence of Akinfeev undoubtedly cost CSKA much. Even though he showed some fine saves and reflexes, the young Pomazun doesn’t have the experience and confidence of Akinfeev. This was proven against Rubin when Jonathas netted two goals in only ten minutes. With Akinfeev under the woodwork, both of CSKA’s wingers would feel much safer for helping the offensive lines. The presence of Akinfeev would benefit the team both tactically and mentally.

Bibras Natkho

After losing his touch in 2015-16, the Israeli midfielder has finally found his way back. Last season, Natkho filled the hole that Eremenko left in and scored six goals from 26 league appearances. Along with Vitinho and Chalov, Natkho was crowned as the club’s top scorer in 2016-17 season. With the reintroduction of 3-5-2, the 29-year old midfielder took part in every match, lately as a super sub. He would still be CSKA’s first option of executing a penalty as two of his goals this season came from the spot. He even bagged a goal against AEK only a minute after subbed in for Dzagoev by swerving a header from Aleksei Berezutskiy; a victory and the sole goal of the match. I doubt Goncharenko would play him from the start, but I am pretty sure Natkho would show us a quality of a super sub.

Aleksandr Golovin

The future of Sbornaya and CSKA, Golovin exhibited above average appearances in his last three seasons. His speed, movement, and composure could get him to the next level, while his emotional capability and decision-making are things that hinder it. He would play alongside Dzagoev as a central midfielder and provide assists and key passes for Vitinho or other attackers like he did to Shchennikov in the match against Spartak last weekend. Furthermore, his service as a central midfielder won’t stop him contributing to the goalscoring as sometimes he appeared as a solution when the attackers go dull all over again.

Predicted Lineup

Akinfeev – A. Berezutskiy, Vasin, V. Berezutskiy – Shchennikov, Dzagoev, Wernbloom, Golovin, Mario Fernandes – Chalov, Vitinho (3-5-2). Manager: Viktor Goncharenko.

Match Analysis

The upcoming match between Young Boys and CSKA would be their first encounter, which makes it harder to predict. As a regular UCL participant, the Moscow side would advantage from their experience and European atmosphere, while for Young Boys only appear in the UCL playoff stage consecutively.

Lausanne-Sport was the only Swiss club ever encountered by CSKA –and was crushed by the Muscovite 8-1 on aggregate during the 2010/11 group stages. In contrary to CSKA, Young Boys have met two Russian clubs in European competition. The first time they met with a Russian club was in 2010/11 against Zenit in the First Knock-out Stage. Last time, they met Anzhi in the same competition, but that was 5 years ago. Collectively, Young Boys recorded two wins and two losses against them.

Currently occupying second place in the Swiss Super League, Young Boys have scored nine goals and kept three consecutive clean sheets. They only got conceded in the match against FC Thun, which is also their only loss in domestic football this season. While playing against Dynamo Kyiv, Young Boys showed us a rapid and tireless game, which would definitely create some problems for an ageing CSKA.

The ageing central defence is CSKA’s main problem right now, not counting Viktor Vasin who is error prone right now. It is like Young Boys versus Old Boys in more than just name, with Young Boys pressing high and countering with pace. Certainly, Goncharenko sees this as a major problem, as he would instruct Wernbloom cover the defensive lines while both of CSKA’s winger must play forward and backwards tirelessly. Having Vitinho who consistently makes dangerous runs and attempts should trouble both von Bergen and Nuhu in defence.

The game should be tight, just like the score. We predict a slim 2-1 win for the visitors.

Author: Ruli Endepe

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