PFC CSKA Moskva coach Leonid Slutski is taking heart from compatriots FC Rubin Kazan's success against Spanish rivals this season after being paired with Sevilla FC in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round.
Russian titleholders Rubin took four points off holders FC Barcelona in the group stage, including a memorable win at Camp Nou, and Slutski is hoping CSKA can emulate that feat in this, their first appearance in the last 16. "Sevilla are experiencing a renaissance and their results in the UEFA Champions League prove that, but Rubin showed you can play and win, even against Barcelona," he said. "We wouldn't have been favourites in any case. Sevilla probably have more reasons to cheer."
These two sides have never met before in UEFA club competition, but have enjoyed similar upward trajectories in recent years. CSKA became the first Russian team to win a European trophy when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 2005 and they were succeeded as champions by Sevilla, who won it under Juande Ramos in 2006 and 2007. With their domestic campaign already over, CSKA will not play a competitive match until the first leg in Moscow on 24 February. Slutski, however, had presciently organised a trip to Spain before the draw. "We'll have a training camp in Spain, so we'll try to watch Sevilla in action," he said. "We'll try to prepare for the matches in the best possible way. The current side differs from Juande Ramos's team of two years ago, but it still consists of high quality players."
Having finished top of Group G and riding high in the Liga, Sevilla have every reason to look ahead to the tie with confidence. Their coach Manuel Jiménez, though, knows just how tough a test his Russian rivals will be. "Maybe they aren't one of the teams considered favourites to win the competition, but like us they are among the top 16 sides," he said. "One tricky aspect of the tie could be getting to grips with the artificial playing surface they play on. They've completed their season and will have a lot of time to prepare for our game while keeping us under observation. If they consider us favourites it's because they rate our work. In football I've never been one who likes to predict what is going to happen in any given game. No team is superior to another until they demonstrate it out on the pitch."
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