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Champions League Preview: Rubin Kazan - Barcelona

Kick Off: Wednesday, November 4, 2009. 18:30 CET
Centralniy, Kazan

Surprise Result

When the draw for the Champions League group stages was made in August, only the loyalist of Rubin fans could have imagined that their team would cause the surprise of the competition by defeating the holders on their own ground.

That is exactly what happened just over two weeks ago in Camp Nou, Aleksandr Ryazantsev and Gokdeniz Karadeniz netting either side of the break to give the Russian league winners the most unlikely of wins.

Following that success there was talk, mainly among the Madrid-based media, of a mini-crisis at Camp Nou. Barca were struggling for goals and had been held by Valencia the weekend before to a lacklustre goalless draw.

Since then, however, the situation for the Blaugrana has brightened. A convincing win against Real Zaragoza in the league and a comfortable victory at Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey means that talk of any major problems has been quickly silenced.

There was a slight blip at the weekend, when an incredible own goal in injury time by Gerard Pique at the Reyno de Navarra gifted Osasuna a share of the spoils and saw Barca's lead at the top of the Primera Division reduced to one point once more.

Cold Conditions

The trip to the Republic of Tatarstan comes with more pitfalls and challenges than just facing an in-form team who will be aiming to make it a unique double over the reigning European champions.

Leaving 20-degree warmth in Barcelona, Pep Guardiola's side have been stunned by the below zero temperatures that have greeted them. Already adjustments to their schedule have been made.

With predictions of more snow and frost on the evening of the game, and a thermometer reading of somewhere between minus six and ten, the players will have to be prepared.

Training the morning after their arrival was cancelled and the visitors would have called off the evening practice too had it not been obligatory under UEFA regulations on the night before a match.

Rubin will be accustomed to the climate and to the pitch, which it is promised will be unaffected, so another surprise could be on the cards unless Barcelona have some thermal underwear with them.


RECENT FORM

Rubin


Oct 30  H  4-1 W  Krylya Sovetov (League)
Oct 25  A  2-1 W  Rostov (League)
Oct 20  A  2-1 W  Barcelona (CL)
Oct 17  H  2-1 W  Khimki (League)
Oct 4    A  2-1  L  Lokomotiv Moscow (League)

Barcelona

Oct 31  A  1-1 D  Osasuna (League)
Oct 28  A  2-0 W  Cultura Leonesa (Copa del Rey)
Oct 25  H  6-1 W  Real Zaragoza (League)
Oct 20  H  2-1 L   Rubin (CL)
Oct 17  A  0-0 D  Valencia (League)


TEAM NEWS

Rubin

Macbeth Sibaya is back in action after the South African midfielder completed his three-match European ban when the team played in Camp Nou a fortnight ago. Captain Sergei Semak has not played since picking up a knock in Barcelona while Aleksandr Bukharov remains a doubt, even though he played in the club's last league outing.

Probable Starting XI: (4-4-2): Ryzhikov; Popov, Sharonov, Cesar Navas, Ansaldi; Ryazantsev, Christian Noboa, Semak, Karadeniz; Bukharov, Dominguez.

Barcelona

Guardiola has taken 19 players on the trip and will tell one of them he is not required, but that is unlikely to be Thierry Henry, who returns to full fitness. Dani Alves should start after having missed the last two games for the club. The only players who are missing from the first team squad are Gabriel Milito, who is still out of action, and Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who is ineligible.

Probable Starting XI: (4-3-3) Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal; Toure, Xavi, Iniesta; Messi, Ibrahimovic, Henry.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alejandro Dominguez (Rubin Kazan)


The Argentine forward was a key figure in Camp Nou and used the game to showcase what he is capable of. Watching Espanyol will have been impressed as he has stated that he would like to join them when he leaves Rubin in January, when his current contract runs out. The striker will be looking to impress again and help his side cause another upset.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona)

For the first time voices of dissent have been raised about the Swede and the Catalan club's decision to sign him after they had chosen to allow Samuel Eto'o to leave the club. While he started well in the league, his performances have not been as effective recently and he will have to raise his game and score here to silence the critics.


PREDICTION

The shock of the temperature will be one hurdle for Barcelona, but then there is also the fact that their hosts are the strongest team in a strong Russian league. Though the Blaugrana dominated possession in their home, they still lost. Pundits and fans were able to talk about it being a one-off and a fluke, but on Wednesday the hosts could prove that it was not, earning themselves more headlines in the process.

Rubin 2 - 1 Barcelona


Lucas Brown, Goal.com