Leonid Slutsky has urged his CSKA Moscow side to “play aggressively and push for victory” when they face Sevilla in their first competitive match of the year on Wednesday.
CSKA Moscow have not played a competitive game since defeating Besiktas on 8 December. Nonetheless, their coach Leonid Slutsky is backing his team to hit the ground running.
“Friendly matches, regardless of results, cannot compare with competitive games,” he acknowledged. “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.”
Sevilla coach Manuel Jimenez said his team are a united group, capable of mading the biggest prize.
“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 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.”
Sevilla travelled to Moscow without the injured Luis Fabiano, Diego Capel, Abdoulay Konko and Sebastien Squillaci, but Jimenez confirmed that Frederic Kanoute had receovered from a thigh injury and was fit to play.