Running in the family
When CSKA Moscow host Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, the Russian club could be relying on an element of brotherly love in the shape of the formidable Berezutski twins
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 22/10/13 11:49pm
From Ronald and Frank de Boer, to Rafael and Fabio da Silva, or Lars and Sven Bender, there have been several stories of successful twins in football.
There are many more examples of family pairs in the Beautiful Game but, on Wednesday on Matchday Three of the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could be set to encounter another specific set of brothers in what looks like a direct battle with CSKA Moscow for second place in Group D.
Vasili and Aleksei Berezutski were both born on 20th June, 1982. They are identical twins and their connection goes even further. The duo have both been at CSKA for a decade or more in their football careers and, over the years, they have formed the backbone of the defence for both their club and even Russia. Standing at a muscle-bound 6' 2'' and capable of playing anywhere across the defence, they are significant obstacles and obviously have a unique link.
Aleksei once said in 2011 of his on-field relationship with his brother: "It is hard to judge the football side only, because we are together in life. But naturally we have a mutual understanding on the pitch. Certainly it helps us."
The Berezutskis, who have both played one match apiece so far in the 2013/14 Champions League, are clearly far from inexperienced. City will also not be the first club from Manchester against whom the duo have played.
Vasili and Aleksei started both matches against Manchester United in the 2009/10 Champions League's group stages. The latter of those two games was CSKA's most recent meeting with English opposition and it saw them dramatically blow a 3-1 lead in the final minutes to draw 3-3. Vasili had even been among the goals in that fixture at Old Trafford, scoring his club's third with a header shortly after half-time. The earlier group game that season in Moscow had ended in Antonio Valencia's goal giving United a 1-0 win. But CSKA still qualified as group runners-up behind United.
Prior to those meetings with United, Aleksei and Vasili were also in the first XI in CSKA's most recent home victory over Premier League opposition. In the last 32 of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup, a 2-0 success against Aston Villa secured a 3-1 aggregate win. Yuri Zhirkov, in a season which would end in his move to Chelsea, was a goalscorer in Moscow. Aleksei and Vasili had also started the 1-1 draw in the first leg.
But that was far from the Berezutskis' first encounter with English opposition. Both players started in Russia's 3-0 defeat by England at Wembley in Euro 2008 qualifying before then also playing the full 90 minutes in their country's 2-1 home victory over the Three Lions, who featured now-City players Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards in their team.
England would infamously fail to qualify for Euro 2008 while Russia went on to light up the tournament and finish as semi-finalists. In that semi-final, Russia lost 3-0 to eventual winners Spain, with David Silva, who of course now plays for City, being a goalscorer against a side including Vasili.
Silva, though, will not be the only familiar face if the Berezutskis feature against City this week. Back in the group stages of the 2005/06 UEFA Cup, current Manchester City playmaker Samir Nasri played as a substitute for Marseille in their 2-1 win at CSKA. Aleksei and Vasili were both playing for CSKA.
At the beginning of that season, the Berezutskis had again played the full match as CSKA, then UEFA Cup winners, were beaten 3-1 after extra time by Champions League winners Liverpool in the European Super Cup in Monaco. Two goals from Djibril Cisse before one from Luis Garcia gave Liverpool the win.
Not long after that defeat by Liverpool, Aleksei and Vasili were again starters when CSKA drew 0-0 with Arsenal in the 2006/2007 Champions League group stages in London having already beaten the Premier League club in Russia. Meanwhile, earlier in his career, Aleksei had already faced an English side when playing in two defeats by Chelsea in 2004/05's Champions League group stages.
Given the time they play together and their family connection, it would be easy to envisage a healthy competition, or even rivalry, between the pair in their sporting achievements. But Vasili has previously insisted that is not the case, saying: "Perhaps to some extent when we were younger but now we are more relaxed about things, as we are more experienced players. Such competitiveness is not present on the pitch but in life we constantly argue and play somewhat different games, and for us it matters."
Both Berezutskis are not guaranteed to start against City in Wednesday's early evening kick-off at Arena Khimki, when the visitors will be strong favourites - despite their humbling by Bayern Munich in their last outing - given the fact CSKA have lost five of their last seven matches in all competitions. But, if they do, they have vast experience and, as Vasili says, it will certainly matter.