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Champions League Preview: Rubin Kazan - Inter

Kick-Off: Tuesday, September 29, 18:30 CET
Central Stadium, Kazan

Optimistic And Hopeful


Rubin Kazan's debut in the Champions League a fortnight ago might have ended in a 3-1 defeat to Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv, but the Russian champions are not a side that can be easily pushed over. Against the former European Cup semi-finalists, the Tatarstan club led as late as the 70th minute at the Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium but then shipped three goals.

Even taking into consideration their late capitulation to Kyiv, it cannot be denied that Kazan are an in-form side. They are in pole position in the Russian top flight at the moment and are very strong at home. They might be one of the eight clubs making their debut in the Champions League this season, but they should be taken seriously if their performance in Ukraine is any indicator.

Entertaining Italian champions Inter at the Central Stadium is a daunting prospect, but for Kazan it is as much going to be an occasion to savour as an opportunity to go for the kill. Kurban Berdyev's side know that in reality they have nothing to lose and even a draw with the Nerazzurri would be celebrated as a victory.

Kick-Starting Their Campaign

A 0-0 draw with Spanish and European champions Barcelona, who still remain the best and most entertaining side anywhere in the world, isn't a bad achievement, and for Inter that draw came at home on the opening week of the new Champions League campaign. Inter's domestic triumphs in the last three or four years have been obliterated by their dearth of success in Europe, and coach Jose Mourinho knows that this season he has to deliver the Champions League crown.

Inter do have the players to go far in the competition but it remains to be seen whether they have the hunger and the mentality. A win away from home in Russia would go quite some distance to demonstrate whether the Nerazzurri have that winning mentality or not, but a victory over Russian champions Rubin Kazan will be far from straightforward.

Inter are without Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Motta and David Suazo for their trip to Kazan, and Mourinho has a tactical decision to make on whether to start with a three-pronged attack of Mario Balotelli, Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito. Winning is hugely important for Inter - another draw would only increase the pressure on them and allow their critics to further sharpen their blades.


FORM GUIDE

Rubin Kazan

September 25 v Amkar Perm' (H) - LOST 2-1 (Russian Premier League)

September 20 v Tom' Tomsk (A) - DREW 0-0 (Russian Premier League)

September 16 v Dynamo Kyiv (A) - LOST 3-1 (Champions League)

September 12 v Saturn Moscow - WON 5-1 (Russian Premier League)

August 30 v Spartak (A) - WON 3-0 (Russian Premier League)

Inter

September 26 v Sampdoria (A) - LOST 1-0 (Serie A)

September 23 v Napoli (H) – WON 3-1 (Serie A)

September 20 v Cagliari (A) – WON 2-1 (Serie A)

September 16 v Barcelona (H) -  DREW 0-0 (Champions League)

September 13 v Parma (H) – WON 2-0 (Serie A)


TEAM NEWS

Rubin Kazan

Coach Kurban Berdyev will still be without the services of key midfielder MacBeth Sibaya for this match as he is suspended. However, his side welcome back striker Aleksandr Bukharov, who has recovered from a knee problem.

Possible Lineup (4-4-2): Ryzhikov, Ansaldi, Cesar, Kaleshin, Sharonov; Semak, Ryazantsev, Noboa, Karadeniz; Dominguez, Bukharov

Inter


The former European Cup winners are without Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Motta and David Suazo. Sneijder picked up a thigh injury in their match against Napoli and has been left back in Milan along with Motta and Suazo. Coach Jose Mourinho could also make some changes to the forward line, with an additional midfielder perhaps coming in for this away match.

Possible Lineup (4-4-2): Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari, Stankovic; Eto'o, Milito


PLAYERS TO WATCH


Sergei Semak (Rubin Kazan)

The Russian midfielder captained his nation to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 and has been a tremendous player for Rubin Kazan so far. The 33-year-old tried his best against Dynamo in their opening Champions League match but his team-mates could not read his passes. Inter will have to wary of this veteran on Tuesday.

Diego Milito (Inter)

The Argentine striker has been in superb form so far this season and was one of the best players at the San Siro a fortnight ago, when the Italian champions hosted Barcelona. Jose Mourinho might be inclined to use a conservative approach against Rubin Kazan on Tuesday evening, and Milito will be asked to find a goal or two.


PREDICTION


It is not going to be easy for Inter as Rubin Kazan will be in full throttle at home. But the Nerazzurri should be considered favourites for this match as they have superior players. However, don't expect a rout.

Rubin Kazan 1-2 Inter


Subhankar Mondal, Goal.com