Both CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen suffered 3-0 defeats on the opening day of the Champions League group stages. The two teams are not expected to pose too much of a threat to Bayern Munich and Manchester City, and will most probably be fighting for third place which gives them a ticket to the Europa League.
Therefore when the two sides meet on Wednesday, neither will be willing to move an inch. CSKA Moscow will start the slight favourites, even if the match will be played at Zenit's stadium in St. Petersburg; however, they have been on an extremely poor run off late, losing three of their last four matches.
CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutski is hoping for a turnaround of fortunes for his club, starting with a win over Viktoria Plzen.
"Every game is important for us -- it is necessary to win and break up the situation we are in," he said. "This match is also of strategic importance in terms of fighting for a place in the group. We have some players who've been in more difficult situations than this. I hope our experience will help us.
CSKA went down to champions Bayern Munich on Matchday One, while Viktoria Plzen were overwhelmed by Manchester City. Nobody might be giving Plzen much of a chance in this group, but manager Pavel Vrba believes his side can still spring a surprise or two.
"We have studied CSKA and know their strengths," Vrba said. "They may not be playing their best football but they remain a fine team. They are particularly strong in the middle of the park. We expect them to rise to the occasion.
"The Russian league continues to get stronger and stronger and this is reflected in European competition. This is a very important match for us and our opponents. We want to do our talking on the field and prove we can compete at this level."
Team News: Rasmus Elm made a return from a long-term injury for CSKA, while Aleksandrs Cauna, out from May, is back in full training. Seydou Doumbia and Alan Dzagoev, though, remain sidelined.
David Limbersky and Marian Cisovsky are ruled out for Plzen, but Radim Reznik is back after missing four weeks of action with a thigh injury.
Key Men: CSKA: The onus will be on Keisuke Honda to pull the strings for the Russian side, and the manager is depending on the Japanese international to take control of the game.
"Much of our attacking play depends on how Honda plays," Slutski said. "In recent outings we have performed poorly, and Keisuke has to show leadership skills to take responsibility for a lot of action on the field, to lead the team with him."
Plzen: Their skipper Pavel Horvath has been identified by CSKA as the danger man. "We have a lot of information about our opponents, we have studied them," Slutski added. "Pavel Horvath, the captain, is very good, and the team as a whole is strong and skilled."
Where to watch
The match is scheduled for a 9.30 P.m. (IST, Thursday) start with live telecast on Ten Action.
Expected lineups: CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev; Ignashevich, A Berezutski, Nababkin, V Berezutski; Wernbloom, Milanov, Tosic, Zuber, Honda; Musa.
Viktoria Plzen: Kozacik; Rezník, Hubnik, Prochazka, Kovarik; Petrzela, Horvath, Horava, Pospisil, Rajtoral; Tecl.
Prediction: 1-0 to CSKA Moscow