CSKA Moscow v Arsenal

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Pre-Match Report

CSKA Moscow v Arsenal: The Brief

Tuesday night's events in Rome delivered the perfect warning to us.

Ever since the final whistle blew at the end of our 4-1 first leg win over CSKA Moscow last week, there has been a sense that we already have one foot in the semi-final of the Europa League. 

However, Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League from exactly that position of strength against Roma earlier this week, and Real Madrid also had difficulty converting a three-goal first leg lead into qualification the following night against Juventus.

So those two, high-profile examples should help us avoid complacency in Moscow.

Our away record against Russian sides over the years also underlines that there is plenty of work yet to be done for our name to be included in Friday's draw – we have drawn one and lost three of our previous four trips to the Russian capital.

But confidence is high for this trip. Arsène Wenger's team are the top-scoring side in the Europa League so far this season with 27 goals, and have won eight games in the competition - more than any other side.

Aaron Ramsey

History is also on our side – we have qualified 15 times out of 17 when protecting a first-leg lead in European knockout football.

This competition has slowly but surely grown into our priority this season, and the manager will revert to his strongest side after resting several players at the weekend against Southampton. 

Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny return to the squad, but Granit Xhaka misses out with flu.

We preview the quarter-final second leg with classic goals, team news, quotes from the pre-match press conference, facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


In the two previous Europa League knock-out rounds we played the second leg at home, defending healthy first-leg leads, and the boss wants us to continue the excellent away form in the competition regardless of the first-leg scoreline.

"Milan is a good example for us to have a different attitude away from home,” he said. “But that was the first leg, so we have to overcome the hurdle a little bit, of thinking we have something to defend and play like we did in Milan. The teams who went out this week conceded early and then it was hard for them.

"We have an advantage, the best way to build on the advantage is to try to win the game, we play with our best possible team, have a positive attitude and try and win the game."

Shkodran Mustafi on CSKA

Team news 

ARSENAL: Cazorla (ankle), Xhaka (flu), Ospina (ankle), Maitland-Niles (muscular), Mkhitaryan (knee), Aubameyang (ineligible)

CSKA MOSCOW: Vasin (knee), Gordyushenko (knee)

Granit Xhaka in action during the first leg


Tactical expert Michael Cox on CSKA's strengths:  

"CSKA can be lethal on the break – they use a two-man strikeforce, but in a way neither is a true centre-forward. 

“Ahmed Musa, on loan from Leicester City since January, is an electric speedy winger who offers a constant counter-attacking threat, and in this system will look to make runs into the channels to collect long passes, perhaps in the mould of his ex-teammate Jamie Vardy. 

“Alongside him is Brazilian Vitinho, a brilliant all-round attacker capable of genuine moments of magic, and very adept at shooting from long-range. Arsenal must watch him carefully."

Vitinho in action during the first leg


Arsène Wenger on the threat posed by CSKA's Aleksandr Golovin, who scored at Emirates Stadium last week… 

"His performances are very good and he is a regular player in the Russian team so that means he is a very strong player. In fact you look at CSKA they have two regular players in midfield who play for Russia so they have the best midfield in the country."

Matchday Show: CSKA (a)


Bellerin - The Europa League win that meant most

Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin may have missed all but one of our Europa League group-stage games, but he’s been an ever-present in the competition since.

The Spain international scored in that match against Cologne back in September and has starred in wins over Ostersunds and our quarter-final first leg against CSKA Moscow, but Bellerin says there is one victory which meant more than any other.
“Beating AC Milan in the last round was a great boost for us because they were one of the teams to beat in the competition,” he said.

“We know that if you want to be up there then you need to play against these types of teams so that was a very important home and away win for us and we’re very excited as it’s our first year in the competition. We want to do the best that we can and we know we have chances.
“Any trophy is a great trophy for us. It’s a European trophy, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Champions League or the Europa League. Especially right now with the teams that you have in the Europa League with Atletico Madrid and AC Milan, who we just beat. These teams are Champions League teams so for us to win this competition would mean the world, of course.”

Press conference

Mustafi - Barcelona example is a warning for us

By their own manager’s admission, Roma needed “a miracle” to progress beyond Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Trailing 4-1 after the first leg in the Nom Camp, the Serie A side pulled off a remarkable comeback to win 3-0 at Stadio Olimpico and reach the semi-final.

The situation in our quarter-final tie is the same - we lead 4-1 after the first leg at Emirates Stadium, and Mustafi says last night’s shock has come at the “perfect time” for us.

“I think it came as perfect timing for us, to see that it is football, you are never safe especially when you win at home and have the away game,” Mustafi said. “You have to be very careful how you show up and I think the game we saw yesterday was perfect timing for us to show us that we have to be really focused and really concentrated to finish off the job we did in the first leg.

“I did watch it, I thought Roma did a brilliant job. It isn't easy when you lose the first game 4-1, especially against Barcelona, a team who can always score.

“I think they did a brilliant job but it is nothing that surprises me. Now I have been a few years in professional football and I know this happens often.”

Press conference

How will we approach the second leg?

We go into Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against CSKA Moscow in a convincing position after our 4-1 win at Emirates Stadium.

So what’s the best way to approach Thursday’s match in Moscow?

“We have an advantage, the best way to build on the advantage is to try to win the game, we play with our best possible team, have a positive attitude and try and win the game,” Arsène Wenger said.

“We are in a position where I don't think we are under threat of complacency, it is an important target for us to go as far as possible. 

“Last night may be a warning for us but let us not go overboard as well, yes we have a big job to do but we are in a strong position and it is how we approval the game that will be vital tomorrow.
“The Europa League is important for us, everyone knows that. We are at a stage where we focus on it because in the Premier League we have a very, very, very slim chance to move further up so the Europa League is one of the big targets now.”

Press conference

Why hasn't Xhaka travelled to Moscow?

We’ll be without Granit Xhaka for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg. 

“Xhaka is not here with flu and I think for us it is vital we focus on the performance tomorrow,” confirmed Arsène Wenger at his pre-match press conference.


Pictures: Arsenal train ahead of CSKA match

Arsenal train ahead of CSKA Moscow

We trained for the final time on Wednesday before flying to Russia for our Europa League quarter-final second leg against CSKA Moscow. 

Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey were among those in action at London Colney - and our club photographers sent back these pictures from training:

Matchday Show

Follow the CSKA Moscow game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Matchday Show: CSKA (a)

We face CSKA Moscow in the Europa League on Thursday evening - and if you haven’t made the trip to Russia, don't panic, you can follow the game on Arsenal.com.

Tune in to the website from 7.35pm (UK time) for the following from our European quarter-final second leg: 

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up and audio commentary from 8.05pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip will be available from midnight Thursday

It's all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!


The key quality Rambo brings to the team

Aaron Ramsey celebrates his first goal

Six games, six wins and 17 goals scored - our fast, fluid attacking game has certainly clicked into gear in recent weeks.

But as thrilling as it is seeing the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette in full flight, Arsene Wenger reserves special praise for one man: Aaron Ramsey.

"Players like Aaron give us the balance because he goes into the box," the Arsenal manager said. "When you have many creative players who are good on the ball, they all want to come to the ball and distribute the game but they don't want to go in the box. When we have a creative side, [Aaron] gives us that balance. 

"My dream is to play that kind of football and when it works of course our game is based on quick combinations and quick, sharp movement. When it works you're very happy, but at the end of the day in our game you have to be efficient. 

"When you look since January it’s always three or four at home but away from home we couldn't transform our game into efficiency enough and that’s basically why we're so far behind."

Ramsey has six goals in his last seven games, and Wenger says that the Wales international has developed as he hoped when he signed him as a 17-year-old. 

"I believe that a club can give you an identity in your game and can develop you as a personality if you do not change every time," the manager said. 

"And because Aaron adjusted to the way that we wanted to play, improved a lot in his composure, in his calmness in front of goal [he has done that]. 

"He had always in his game that kind of quality, but he could not always finish well - he was not always composed enough on the ball. He’s developed with us on that front a lot, so I believe that he took advantage a lot of the way that we want to play the game and I think that he enjoys it."