The team is ready. (photo via Realmadrid.com)
CSKA needs to win the game or at least get a 1-1 draw to go into over time. However, any draw with more goals would see the Russian team advancing to the next round. They do need to score, so Mourinho might see this as an opportunity to play the three-man midfield that is well-suited to defend and play with counterattacks.
With Lass Diarra having recovered from injury, the Portuguese coach might plan a 4-3-3 formation with Lass-Xabi-Khedira and Özil-Benzema-Cristiano Ronaldo, though the players could change. For example, perhaps he prefers to start Kaka instead of Özil to launch a faster counterattack or Higuaín instead of Benzema or Granero in Lass's place. What's clear is that he has a lot of options in this system--he could choose between keeping the ball and pressing CSKA's defenders whenever they recover the ball or waiting for the Russian team to lose the ball after they have moved their defenders up to support the attack.
Real Madrid's defenders are not in great shape. Neither Arbeloa nor Marcelo are playing great defense lately. For this reason, Mourinho could opt for the 4-3-3 formation. An away goal is very important in the Champions League. Lass, Xabi and Khedira could help Real Madrid's wingbacks against CSKA's quickest players--Seydou Doumbia, Alan Dzagoev or Keisuke Honda. These three players are CSKA's most dangerous threats by far, and they all play in the forward spots, so Real Madrid's defenders will need to focus on keeping them from scoring.
The only positions that are set for tomorrow are Casillas, Pepe, Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. Who knows whether Mourinho will reserve Xabi Alonso as he is one yellow card away from being suspended for Real Madrid's next European game. It might sound crazy, but Nuri Sahin could get some minutes if one of Real Madrid's midfielders gets injured and Mourinho doesn't want to play Esteban Granero yet.
Real Madrid is a very solid team which in normal circumstances wouldn't have a trouble getting rid of CSKA Moscow. But if the Russian team is able to score an early goal off a counterattack or a corner-kick, the players could get anxious and lose the patience necessary for the win. Di María would have played in this game if he were healthy because he provides the defensive intensity needed in a Champions League game and also creates a lot of goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. The Argentinian will have to wait for his team to qualify to the next round and then earn his starting role back from Kaka or Özil.
The big European nights are back at the Santiago Bernabéu. The crowd usually gives its best, and the club has released a video to fire the fans up for what will surely be a difficult game for los blancos.
Real Madrid-CSKA ... Play your part (via realmadridcf)
Who will advance to the next Champions League Round?
Real Madrid (182 votes)
CSKA Moscow (21 votes)
203 total votes