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Fates scowl on beleaguered CSKA

Low on confidence and short of fit players, PFC CSKA Moskva are looking for a lucky break as they go into the UEFA Super Cup game against Liverpool FC.

Slipping form
Since surprisingly beating Sporting Clube de Portugal 3-1 in Lisbon to win the UEFA Cup, the Army Men have been in something of a decline. With players plagued by injury and poor form, they have slipped down the Russian table and are now seven points adrift of leaders FC Lokomotiv Moskva.

Miserable month
August has been a particularly miserable month for CSKA, as a 3-2 defeat at Lokomotiv in a fabulous but - ultimately for CSKA - crushing game prompted a run of three draws and one win. With one of those draws having come against financially-crippled FC Krylya Sovetov Samara, it was hardly a heroic sequence.

Olic injured
A 1-1 draw in their most recent league match saw the return of left-winger Yuri Zhirkov and defender Vassili Berezoutski, but the problems for Gazzaev's side remain in attack. A cruciate injury sustained on international duty with Croatia has ruled Ivica Olić out for six months while Brazilian striker Vágner Love is short of fitness.

Samodin opportunity
Impressive last season, Love has made it clear since January that he wants to leave CSKA. Gazzaev was set to overlook the Brazilian in favour of 20-year-old academy graduate Sergei Samodin for the Super Cup, but having had only three days of training, Love is now expected to start the game.

Tired legs
In many ways, the striking situation encapsulates CSKA's problem since lifting the UEFA Cup. While Gazzaev boasts 14 top-class players, he has little in reserve apart from inexperienced youngsters. And with most of his stars having played over 40 matches this year, they are badly overstretched.

Unattractive proposition
CSKA fans are eager for new signings before the transfer window closes on 31 August, but club president Evgeni Giner does not want them to get their hopes up. "We could make an offer to, let's say, [Samuel] Eto'o or some other striker from [FC] Barcelona or a club where there is a surplus of attackers, but each of them would say they are better off on the bench at Barça than in Russia," he said. "My experience tells me that while CSKA attract players, the Russian league doesn't."

Quiet session
Only 12 players attended the club's pre-match training session in Nice on Tuesday as CSKA sweated over the fitness of Love and Aleksei Berezoutski, who has a slight groin problem. With no reinforcements on the horizon, they will have to hope their stretched resources suffice in Monaco.

Underdog days
"What can we do?" said Giner. "CSKA may be able to register me or Valeri Gazzaev as extra players, but that's no solution is it? We will have to use who we have against Liverpool." The timing may not be the best for CSKA, but as they and Liverpool proved in their respective finals, underdogs can still have their day.