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Champions League Preview: Barcelona - Rubin Kazan

Kick-Off: Tuesday, October 20, 20:45 CET.
Camp Nou, Barcelona

Bouncing Back

Rubin Kazan have made their name in Russia, but are still relatively unknown in Europe and that could be a danger for Barcelona on Tuesday, with many of the home team's fans expecting their side to cruise to a second Champions League victory of the season.

Pep Guardiola will know all about his team's opponents and has already stated that he is not expecting anything other than a testing encounter as Barca look to bounce back and prove that the 0-0 draw against Valencia last weekend was a one-off.

In Spanish football there is a great deal made of the 'FIFA virus', which they believe effects all clubs following an international, and fortunately for the Blaugrana they were able to use that as their excuse for a blunt performance in the goalless tie.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic carrying a slight knock and Thierry Henry still sidelined, the Blaugrana were contained by a determined Valencia team who set themselves up to nullify the creative side of their opponents before launching counterattacks.

Without a tall forward to occasionally look for to ease the pressure, Barca took their time making their mark in the game and that will be something that Guardiola will not want to see a repeat of against Rubin.

Champions Elect

The Russians may be an unknown quantity to the majority of the Camp Nou faithful, but the fact that they won the league title last term and are on top once again with five games of the season left should tell its own story.

Having held Inter at home in their last outing, Gurban Berdiyew's side will want to show that they are not a flash in the pan and can handle themselves on the biggest stages and against the best teams on the continent.

Newcomers to the European spotlight, Rubin only won promotion to the Russian top flight in 2003 and have built their way up to the summit. They started last term with seven consecutive wins, something Barca just missed out on achieving last Saturday.

That laid the foundations for the title push and they became only the second club outside of Moscow, after Zenit St. Petersburg, to clinch the championship.


FORM GUIDE

Barcelona


Oct 17 A 0-0 Valencia (League)
Oct 3  H 1-0 Almeria (League)
Sep 29 H 2-0 Dynamo Kiev (Champions League)
Sep 26 A 2-0 Malaga (League)
Sep 22 A 4-1 Racing Santander (League)

Rubin Kazan

Oct 17 H 2-1 Khimki (League)
Oct 4  A 2-1 Lokomotiv Moscow (League)
Sep 29 H 1-1 Inter (Champions League)
Sep 25 H 1-2 Amkar (League)
Sep 20 A 0-0 Tom (League)


TEAM NEWS

Barcelona


Guardiola is set to name Ibrahimovic in the team after he was rested for Saturday after suffering a knock on World Cup duty. Lionel Messi will also play, despite talk of being tired, and Andres Iniesta could well fill in on the left in place of the injured Thierry Henry.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Keita, Yaya Toure; Messi, Ibrahimovic, Iniesta.

Rubin Kazan

Aleksandr Bukharov will undergo a late fitness test after injuring his wrist at the weekend, while captain Sergei Semak will be back in the starting team after being rested against Khimki.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ryzhikov; Cesar Navas, Sharonov, Ansaldi, Salukvadze; Ryazantsev, Semak, Noboa, Karadeniz; Dominguez, Bukharov.

 
PLAYERS TO WATCH

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona)


The powerful Swede will be asked to lead the line and become the focal point up front for a team who need to score early to rid themselves of any doubts that were created at the weekend. In the middle of what will be a crowded area, Ibrahimovic has to stand out.

Sergei Semak (Rubin Kazan)

If Barcelona are to be stopped from playing then it will be done with Rubin closing down their midfield and looking to break quickly. That is where the captain could prove to be crucial as his influence in the middle will determine how well the Russians play.


PREDICTION

The Russians will have seen the way that Valencia stifled Barcelona's midfield and forward line and could well attempt to replicate that. With Ibrahimovic set to return, the home team should have a crucial extra edge that was missing in Mestalla. Barca should come out on top on this occasion.

Barcelona 2 - 0 Rubin Kazan


Lucas Brown, Goal.com