FC Spartak Moskva coach Unai Emery has labelled the visit of SL Benfica as "crucial" to his team's quest to qualify from UEFA Champions League Group G. With the Russian club bottom of the section after two successive defeats, Emery knows Spartak cannot afford to waste another opportunity to get points on the board at home following the 3-2 loss to Celtic FC on matchday two.
Coach Unai Emery
The game will be crucial for us and Benfica. We are fighting for second place in the group and can't waste an opportunity [to win] at home. I have confidence that my players will perform at a very high level.
As for our [three] recent defeats, you should discount the Anji match. The team played well and our improvement was evident, but unfortunately we didn't win. Regarding our two defeats at the Luzhniki [against PFC CSKA Moskva and before that Celtic], my team didn't demonstrate the level of performance they are capable of.
The coaching staff has conducted an internal review and we have an understanding and appreciation of why we have been losing. We must work to win against Benfica and do everything possible to break the streak.
Saturday: FC Anji Makhachkala 2-1 Spartak (Traoré 63, Insaurralde og 90+4; Bilyaletdinov 35)
Pesyakov; Suchý, Insaurralde, Makeev, K Kombarov; D Kombarov, Carioca (De Zeeuw 90+2), Källström (Bryzgalov 74), Bilyaletdinov; Welliton (Jurado 51), Ari.
• Spartak suffered their second straight league loss and third successive defeat in all competitions – their worst run since November 2009.
Goalkeeper Sergei Pesyakov was ruled out for a month with a broken metatarsal sustained at the weekend, meaning Andriy Dykan may be forced to return sooner than planned from a shoulder problem. Striker Emmanuel Emenike did not make the trip to Makhachkala because of back pain. Pavel Yakovlev is out with ruptured ligaments sustained while on Under-21 duty with Russia ten days ago.
Coach Jorge Jesus
Three losses in a row is great motivation for Spartak. This is the Champions League and there are no weak teams in the competition. The game is very important, because there are three teams battling for second place in the group. If we manage to get a good result, then it will be just us and Celtic bidding for that second qualification spot.
I can't say for certain what will happen tomorrow, yet it is difficult for us to play away from home. That said, I thought we did well to come away from the game at Celtic with a point, and we will be doing our utmost to at least leave Moscow with a draw.
Spartak have nothing to lose. If they manage to get something out of the game they will continue to try and qualify. Spartak will take risks – they need to get a result. We may change our approach to the game because of this. This is a very important match for both sides.
Thursday: SC Freamunde 0-4 Benfica (Lima 16, Cardozo 45, Salvio 62, Gomes 74)
Lopes; Almeida, Jardel, Sidnei, Luisinho; Matić, Martins (César 57), Nolito, Salvio (Gomes 65); Cardozo, Lima (Rodrigo 64).
• Paulo Lopes and Luisinho made debuts as Benfica beat second-tier Freamunde 4-0 in the Portuguese Cup third round on 18 October. Óscar Cardozo, out since 23 September with a thigh injury, made a goalscoring return.
Pablo Aimar and Nicolás Gaitán (both thigh) missed the match at Freamunde.
Spartak have surrendered 2-1 leads and lost to late goals in both games so far. Furthermore, while the Moscow side beat Fenerbahçe SK 2-1 at the Stadion Luzhniki in this season's play-offs, they have won just one of their last 15 home matches in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
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