Manchester City face the eerie scenario of playing a crucial Champions League clash with no fans tonight when they face CSKA Moscow.
The Russian side are currently serving a punishment from Uefa for racist chanting from their supporters during their clash against Roma in Italy.
The Khimki Arena, which has an 18,600-capacity, will be the unnatural setting for City and manager Manuel Pellegrini believes they too are at a disadvantage.
“Many may think the local team will suffer the most damage, but I think the biggest loser is the game of football,” he said in a press conference.
“We have no option and we must play this way.It is a pity that we cannot play with fans tomorrow.
“This is a showpiece for fans. It will be a very strange game, with only the players shouting on the pitch.
“I had this experience many years ago, so long ago I cannot remember the exact details, but it is not good.”
This scenario is nothing new for the Russian champions, who were given a smaller punishment last year after directing abuse towards City’s Yaya Toure.
A Sergio Aguero double helped City beat CSKA 2-1 in that game and they will be looking for more of the same from their star striker.
To have any realistic hopes of qualifying from Group E, City must win tonight having only picked up one point from their opening two games.
And defender Pablo Zabaleta has stated that playing in an empty stadium is a new prospect for many in the side.
“It is the first time for me, to play like this, and it will be strange. Most of the players haven’t had this situation,” he said.
“We have to motivate ourselves because we know how important the game is for ourselves. We just have to get the three points out of this game.”
The state of the Khimki Arena pitch was of concern in last years group stage, with CSKA resorting to painting the turf green after it became waterlogged during the build up.
Pellegrini added: “I have no concerns this year. Last year, it was impossible to play on the pitch and everyone knew that before the game.
“It is not the best pitch, it is very difficult to have that in Russia, but it is not a bad pitch and I don’t think we will have any problems with it this time.”
Main image courtesy of Alex Morton/Action Images, with thanks.