In many observer's eyes, PFC CSKA Moskva may appear big underdogs as they visit in-form Real Madrid CF with their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie locked at 1-1, but midfielder Alan Dzagoev told UEFA.com: "Those who say we have no chance are very wrong."
Pontus Wernbloom struck late in the first leg to cancel out Cristiano Ronaldo's 28th-minute effort, but the 21-year-old Dzagoev is hoping for even more drama at the Santiago Bernabéu. "Madrid may be the favourites, but those who say we have no chance are very wrong. There is nothing impossible about this task.
None of us are going to just roll over – we actually have victory on our minds. There is no mental pressure on us: Madrid are world-class opponents, so the onus is on them."
Four Russian clubs made it to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League this season, but CSKA are the only survivors, with FC Zenit St Petersburg following FC Lokomotiv Moskva and FC Rubin Kazan out of Europe last week. The Army Men caught Madrid a little cold in Russia, and as Dzagoev underlined, it was not just the weather that foxed José Mourinho's side.
"It was hard for them to get about and they did not play the kind of football everyone was expecting," the Russian international explained. "Of course, part of that was down to us."
With Dzagoev serving a suspension, CSKA warmed up for the Madrid showdown with a 1-1 draw against FC Dinamo Moskva, while their opponents won 3-2 at Real Betis Balompié to remain ten points clear at the top of the Spanish table.
"I did not see their match against Betis, but the lads said it wasn't that easy for Madrid, who conceded first," said Dzagoev, adding of the runaway leader in the ESM Golden Shoe race: "Cristiano Ronaldo is in good shape; he scores at least once a match. He stood out in Moscow, too. At the Bernabéu, we will have to watch him."
CSKA, though, have their own danger man in the form of Seydou Doumbia, who scored his 25th league goal of the season against Dinamo, and has hit five in six UEFA Champions League games. "It's more difficult for Seydou, since he had a good understanding with Vágner Love [who joined Brazilian side CR Flamengo in the winter]," said Dzagoev. "But I hope he keeps scoring, starting on Wednesday."
Leonid Slutski will not be able to call on the injured Mark González and Keisuke Honda is a doubt. Beating Madrid in any circumstances is a big ask, but Dzagoev has an eye on something extraordinary.
"Every fixture is important in its own way," he said, dismissing talk of this being the biggest match in the club's history. "Put it this way; we can make history with a positive result at the Bernabéu. Madrid have a lot of stars: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Mesut Özil, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. Beating them would give us a lot of positive emotion and momentum."
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