Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes the struggle for qualification from Group E to the second round of the Uefa Champions League will go down to the wire.
The reigning Premier League champions are without a win in as many matches in Europe and sits third in their pool with two points from their last two games.
They host the Russian champions on Wednesday night and a defeat would definitely halt their progress to the knockout stages.
“I don’t think it’s sudden death – you can continue mathematically but it’s an important game,” Pellegrini said in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“We have just two more games to play and we need more points. Our team don’t consider it a final game but it’s a very important game.”
A Jerome Boateng strike on the nick of full-time at Bayern Munich consigned Pellegrini’s men to an opening day loss in Germany, followed with successive draws at home to Roma and at CSKA’s Khimki Arena a fortnight ago.
Wednesday’s game is the first of two home fixtures for City, who will play their last game of the group stage campaign at AS Roma.
Pellegrini is confident his side can win CSKA at the Etihad, with the visitors set to play without the travelling fans following a Uefa sanction.
Pellegrini said: “It’s impossible to be sure but I think this group will be decided in the last game against Rome in Italy. We’ll see what happens, we will try to win our two games at home and see what the other teams do but I think the qualifiers will be decided in the last game.
“I think that our fans will be behind our team because when we win a game at home here, it’s because everyone does their job, the manager, the players and the fans.
“The three games of the Champions League were strange – all of them. We were very unlucky to lose to Bayern – the most difficult game of the group in the last minute to a deflected goal.
“We didn’t play well against Rome – they were in a good moment and in Russia, we played well but then had an excess of trust and only drew the game.
“We have time to put things right and I hope that we do it.
The Chilean boss also confirmed that midfielder Frank Lampard, who has missed the club’s last four games with a thigh injury, and defender Aleksandar Kolarov, who was withdrawn from the pre-match Manchester derby warm-up on Sunday with a “calf injury”, are not available for selection.
But defender Eliaquim Mangala is available after missing the derby win.
He added: “Kolarov has a muscle injury in his calf son he will be out for at least one month. Well, I am not a doctor, but I suppose that.
“Mangala has just stiffness in his hip so he is in the squad list. Frank, I think he will be fit next week.”
The 61-year-old yet insists City, who were knocked out in the last 16 last season, are one of many teams in contention for the European Cup this season, despite their stuttering start.
“There have been many times that a team has qualified out of a group with a low points total and then gone on to win the competition,” he explained.
“Our target is to win the Champions League – maybe there are also five or six teams at the same level or better but with a winning mentality and an ambitious mind, you always have a chance. That’s the way we must be.
“Last year we went one step further in the Champions League than the other years and I hope we continue to improve.”