Slutsky concerns over Moscow pitch
CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky concedes the pitch for his side's home Champions League clash with Manchester City is in a poor state.
The surface at the Russian champions' Khimki Arena home has taken such a battering from games and the weather this year that recent fixtures have had to be moved elsewhere.
CSKA have not played at the ground for almost two months and took their last Champions League home game, against Viktoria Plzen three weeks ago, to St Petersburg.
The pitch has undergone some repair work since and was declared fit to host City in this week's latest Group D match by UEFA a fortnight ago.
Yet Slutsky admits it is far from ideal and knows he must both contend with that and try to address the poor form of his side ahead of City's visit.
"I suppose the quality of the pitch is, absolutely, equal to the quality of our latest results," said Slutsky, whose side have lost five of their last seven, without hint of a smile at his pre-match press conference.
The Khimki Arena has not hosted a game since Dynamo Moscow, with whom CSKA share the stadium, took on Lokomotiv Moscow on September 21.
The pitch simply failed to cope with the games not only being played by CSKA and Dynamo in the early part of the season, but with matches also played by Russia Under-21s and persistent heavy rain.
The problem has been exacerbated as the Luzhniki Stadium, the biggest venue in the country and which regularly hosts Champions League games, is being rebuilt ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
Slutsky's difficulties are not helped by injuries with defender Mario Fernandes and midfielders Alan Dzagoev, Rasmus Elm and Aleksandrs Cauna all out.
Key striker Seydou Doumbia is in training and in contention while Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has been passed fit.
"I have had such feelings before," said Slutsky, 42, whose own promising career as a goalkeeper ended at the age of 19 when he was injured after falling from a tree while trying to rescue a cat.
"We have had serious problems but as years have passed I have got used to the situation.
"Tomorrow we have an important game. We have 11 players of CSKA and we will do our best to get the best possible result."
With Bayern Munich having taken control of Group D, CSKA's hopes of progress are likely to hinge on their upcoming back-to-back games against City.
Slutsky said: "We now have watermark games. It is usually the same that the third and fourth games are the most decisive ones.
"Tomorrow is a key game and a lot will be understood after it but none of the teams will have progressed to the next stage yet."
Slutsky is well aware of the dangers posed by City's expensively-assembled squad.
Striker Alvaro Negredo scored against CSKA playing for Sevilla in the last 16 of the competition in 2010.
"I do remember such a player," said Slutsky, whose side actually beat the Spaniards to reach the quarter-finals that year.
"He is an outstanding player and the very fact he has edged out Edin Dzeko in the starting line-up means a lot.
"But it is very hard to focus on any individuals in tomorrow's game. They have such great competition within the team.
"(Yaya) Toure, Fernandinho, (Joe) Hart - and they can allow themselves not to play (James) Milner, who is one of the key players for the English national team. That says a lot about them.
"We don't have any advantage in terms of skills of players but we can oppose them in our battles on the pitch, one on one, these kind of things."
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