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FCB can take ‘good small step’ against CSKA

Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski know their way around the European footballing world very well, but when they rose from their seats at the end of Monday's pre-match press conference in Moscow even the seasoned stars were taken by surprise, as they received a warm ten-second round of applause, with a handful of Russian reporters even posing for souvenir snaps with the Bayern men. It was an unusual but congenial touch at FCB’s Moscow city centre hotel on the eve of the second Champions League Group E fixture against CSKA (Live in English from 6 pm CET Tuesday on Twitter and Web Radio).

What with a fire alarm, the game taking place behind closed doors and applause after a press conference, the Bundesliga leaders’ first European adventure of term has already included its share of surprises. If Bayern are to revert to plan against the team lying second in the Russian top flight, they will have to “really go for it,” said Lewandowski. “It doesn't matter who you play in the Champions League, whether it's CSKA or Real Madrid. You only face the best teams.”

The Russian Army club have lost their last five matches in European competition and were thrashed 5-1 in Rome on opening day, but Pep Guardiola warned his men they face a “very good team. They’re especially good at getting forward at pace.” The Reds will also have to acclimatise to playing in an empty stadium. “It's certainly a bit odd and it's the first time I've experienced anything like it," the head coach said. “I hope it's the last time."

Autumnal temperatures

Fortunately for Bayern every man in the 20-strong squad is fit and available to play, with Medhi Benatia and Jérôme Boateng both having shaken off sprains. All the players took part in the final pre-match training session on natural turf at the Arena Khimki. CSKA are without suspended duo Pontus Wernbloom and Alan Dzagoev and the injured Vitinho.

“We want to keep marching on and obviously we aim to win here in Moscow,” announced Neuer. Guardiola believes victory would be “a small, but a good small step” en route to the last sixteen, because “this is a very, very dangerous group.” Calling on his men to “concentrate hard," the Spaniard reminded his audience that FCB are still “in the early stages of the season. We're a bit better than last month, but not yet at our peak.”

The teams met at the same stage of the competition last term with Bayern winning convincingly on both occasions, 3–0 at the Allianz Arena and 3–1 in what was already the bitterly cold Russian winter. The conditions are more agreeable this time round with air temperatures of around 10°C forecast for Tuesday evening in Moscow. The men from Munich are utterly determined to avoid any more surprises on this eventful trip, but know they must be extremely cautious. “Every match is tough, as we saw [the season before last] when we lost away to BATE Borisov,” Neuer recalled. Bayern have been warned and are ready for Tuesday's test.