What: Champions League Round of 16
Who: Real Madrid (1) vs CSKA Moscow (1) (first leg score in brackets)
When: Wednesday 14th March, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Fighting Spirit

Real Madrid escaped with yet another valuable away win at the weekend (3-2), this time against Sevillistas Real Betis. While the home side gave La Liga’s leaders a run for their money by drawing level twice, it was Jose Mourinho’s team who had the last laugh as a Sergio Ramos handball was brushed aside by the referee. With the gap over Barcelona still at ten points, the capital side must now turn their attention to the Champions League to settle a Round of 16 clash which is anything but over.

Los Blancos have been shaky on the road recently, as they drew at CSKA Moscow last month, and scrapped single goal wins over Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis respectively. But the team remain united, which will be essential for Champions League success over the club’s Russian opponents, according to midfielder Kaka.

“The squad are in good form and united, which makes the difference. You cannot win a Champions League or a league title with only 11 players or two stars; in the end you win with 15 to 18 players and that makes a team strong”, said the Brazilian.

“CSKA as a whole will be dangerous. They made it difficult for us in Moscow. We will have to watch because they can cause us problems.”

Still In It

It took CSKA Moscow until the dying seconds of the first leg to cancel out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opening goal when the two teams met a few weeks ago. The Russians are still very much in this one, but will need to play their cards right should they want to hold any chance of toppling Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, who barring a few Barcelona encounters, have been imperious at their mythic stadium.

Two successive Russian Premier League draws have left the Army Men ruing their luck as they missed a glorious chance to top the table when meeting Zenit St. Petersburg themselves some ten days ago.

And while CSKA Moscow are still in this game, defender Viktor Vasin admitted that his side are in for a hard ride. “Real are the table toppers and they have high class players like Ronaldo, [Karim] Benzema and [Mesut] Ozil but we are ready for the challenge”, said the Russian.

“Everything depends on us and how we defend”, he added. “Analysts ruled us out against Inter, but had the last laugh after winning against the Italians.”

Reserve goalkeeper Sergei Chepchugov stood in wonderfully for the side when they met Real Madrid in the first leg, and with star shot-stopper Igor Akinfeev still in the treatment room, has the chance to add to his reputation at one of the world’s biggest venues.

Recent form

Real Madrid:
Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Real Madrid (26/02; La Liga)
Real Madrid 5-0 Espanyol (04/03; La Liga)
Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid (10/03; La Liga)

CSKA Moscow:
CSKA Moscow 1-1 Real Madrid (21/02; Champions League)
CSKA Moscow 2-2 Zenit St. Petersburg (03/03; Russian Premier League)
CSKA Moscow 1-1 Dynamo Moscow (09/03; Russian Premier League)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Fabio Coentrao; Angel di Maria

CSKA Moscow: Igor Akinfeev

Player to watch

Real Madrid – Gonzalo Higuain: With Karim Benzema in the treatment room, Higuain is profiting from a starting berth. His goal against Real Betis at the weekend was excellently taken, and a strong showing against CSKA Moscow –and others – can cement his starting eleven spot.

CSKA Moscow – Pontus Wernbloom: The Swedish midfielder was an unlikely scorer as he hit the equalising goal in the last seconds of the first leg. Facing Los Merengues once more, the 25-year-old must turn on the class again.

Match Prediction

Real Madrid missed out on victory in the first leg and at home in front of their fans, there is real pressure on the side’s shoulders. Luckily for the Spanish giants, they never seem to underperform here and should qualify for the quarter-finals. Real Madrid 3-1 CSKA Moscow.

Real Madrid v CSKA Moscow looks sure to be a home win. But will it be? Who do you think will win? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.