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PFC CSKA Moskva have not played a competitive game since defeating Beşiktaş JK on 8 December to qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout phase for the first time. Even so, their coach Leonid Slutsky is backing the Army Men to find their range when they take on Sevilla FC in the Russian capital on Wednesday and Manuel Jiménez, who confirmed Frédéric Kanouté's fitness, admits that factor could be "a double-edged sword".
Leonid Slutsky, CSKA coach
Friendly matches, regardless of results, cannot compare with competitive games. We can talk about CSKA's form as much as we want, but only official fixtures will give us the answer. I'm sure we won't have any problems physically or tactically, but a match has many influences so let's wait and see. Playing at home is a trump card for any team. Obviously we have to play aggressively and push for victory but seldom is a tie at this level decided after the first leg.
Sevilla have a group of top-class attacking players in Perotti, Navas, Kanouté, Negredo, Capel and Luis Fabiano, although the last two will not feature tomorrow. All six are very strong individually and as team players. But, like any side, Sevilla have their weaknesses and we'll try to exploit them. I feel very comfortable at CSKA, but comfort isn't the most important aspect of a coach's job – results and the quality of play are. This season will show whether our work together has been effective.
Manuel Jiménez, Sevilla coach
It is always good when there is harmony in the team. We have a very good, united group, a team that is capable of big achievements. We have to concentrate and work together. There are factors that do not depend on the coach, such as the pitch, weather and injuries, but I am still the one responsible for the result and I'm not going to invent any excuses if something goes wrong. CSKA are a very strong club, one of just two Russian sides to have won the UEFA Cup; there is no danger of underestimating them. The tie is decided over the two legs but we have to play well in the first match.
Every team dreams about playing in the UEFA Champions League final, but there are only big clubs left in the competition and even they will eventually bow out. We have to take it step by step and first of all make it to the quarter-finals. I would love to see [CSKA's long break] working in our favour, but CSKA also have a certain advantage over us because they have been preparing specifically for this match while we sometimes had two fixtures a week. So it's a double-edged sword.
Doubtful: Alan Dzagoev (groin)
Misses next match if booked: Miloš Krasić, Chidi Odiah
• Dzagoev suffered a groin injury during a pre-season trip to Spain but was back for a training camp in Belek, Turkey, last week. "He's preparing for the match but we won't play him from the start, although I haven't ruled out him featuring at some point," Slutsky said.
• Krasić and Mark González are expected to start on the wings with Deividas Šemberas and Pavel Mamaev vying to occupy the second holding role alongside Evgeni Aldonin in support of attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda.
• Nika Piliev, 18, figured three times in the group stage but is not in the squad having only recently returned to training after a back strain.
Out: Luis Fabiano (chest), Diego Capel (ankle), Abdoulay Konko (adductor), Sébastien Squillaci (ankle)
Misses next match if booked: Fernando Navarro
• Kanouté has overcome a thigh complaint to travel to Russia.
• Striker Luis Fabiano and winger Diego Capel were ruled out on Monday after sustaining injuries at the weekend.
• Forward Lautaro Acosta, sidelined since 26 September with an ankle problem, was an unused substitute on Saturday.
20/02/10 RCD Mallorca 1-3 Sevilla
(Mario Suárez 5; Jesús Navas 23, Dragutinović 57, Perotti 62)
• Sevilla, in fourth, ended Mallorca's perfect Liga record at home this season despite finishing with nine men after Álvaro Negredo (24 minutes) and Didier Zokora (90) were dismissed. Iván Ramis was sent off for the hosts two minutes after half-time.
• While Sevilla's Liga campaign remains in full swing, the Russian season does not start until 13 March. CSKA have had training camps in Spain and Turkey (from 16 to 21 February), and have played six friendlies – winning three and drawing two before last Thursday's 3-0 defeat by FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, the only game in which they failed to score.
• CSKA have progressed from the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in five attempts.
• In Sevilla's previous UEFA Champions League campaign of 2007/08, they exited the competition at this juncture against Fenerbahçe SK. After losing 3-2 in Turkey, they won the return by the same scoreline only to go out on penalties.
• Juande Ramos, who led Sevilla to their twin UEFA Cup triumphs, spent six weeks as CSKA coach last autumn.
• Dragutinović and Krasić are team-mates in Serbia's national team.
Did you know?
• Sevilla faced Russian opposition on three occasions in 2005/06 when they succeeded CSKA as UEFA Cup winners. They went down 2-1 at FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the group stage before beating FC Lokomotiv Moskva away (1-0) and home (2-0) in the round of 32. In the quarter-finals they exacted revenge on Zenit with a 5-2 aggregate triumph, the away leg being a 1-1 draw.
Read more on the match in the official UEFA Champions League press kit.
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