By Pavle Gognidze
FC Lokomotiv Moskva need to overcome problems with injuries and suspension and beat FC Barcelona if they are to retain any serious hope of progress from Group H.
Loskov 'a huge loss'
While Lokomotiv enjoyed a free weekend in the Russian Premier-Liga, their head coach, Yuri Semin, was busy considering his likely team selection. Dmitri Loskov, his captain and playmaker, is banned after his dismissal for two bookable offences in the goalless draw at Club Brugge KV - "a huge loss" according to Semin. Vladimir Maminov is expected to take the playmaker's role, while Yuri Drozdov will come in as the defensive midfield player.
Room for improvement
Goalkeeper Sergey Ovchinnikov insisted "we have people who can replace Loskov", but admitted they would have to improve on their performance against Grazer AK in the third qualifying round second leg when "his absence weakened us" in the second half as they lost a two-goal lead to draw 3-3.
Izmailov out of plaster
Loskov is not the only absentee. Azerbaijani international Narvik Sirkhaev is out after limping off against Brugge, while Marat Izmailov faces a race against time to be fit. Having had the plaster removed from his foot only four days ago, it is unlikely Semin will call on the youngster.
'We can finish second'
Semin was planning to analyse Barcelona's weekend defeat at Real Betis Balompié, although the Russians - who have one point from two games so far - are under no illusions about the size of their task. Defender Dmitri Sennikov said: "Theoretically, we can still try to be second. Barcelona and Galatasaray [SK] are very strong, but this match will clarify what chance we have."
Barcelona, who lead the group with maximum points after wins against Brugge and Galatsaray, arrived in Moscow on the back of their first league defeat this season, 3-0 at Betis. Coach Louis van Gaal blamed the setback on tiredness, claiming too much travel had taken its toll, and in response, the Dutchman cancelled one of the two training sessions planned for Monday to give his players time to rest. Van Gaal's squad is unchanged, with Argentinian forward Juan Riquelme still in Buenos Aires following the birth of his second child.
Van Gaal, who has picked the same starting lineup for every league and Champions League match this season, has hinted at changes for Tuesday's match, with Gerard López and Gabri García possible starters. This is the sides' first ever meeting although Barcelona's three previous visits to Moscow have all ended in draws. Lokomotiv, for their part, can point to a 2-0 home win against Real Madrid CF in last year's first group stage as reason for self-belief against their latest Spanish opponents. A repeat performance and they really can start believing.
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