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Spartak face uphill task

Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 2.30CET
FC Spartak Moskva will have to find a new gear if they are to succeed against Valencia CF.

Tournament statistics

Spartak MoskvaValencia

Goals scored1
Attempts on target16
Attempts off target29
Fouls committed118
Yellow cards18
Red cards0

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Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 2.30CET

Spartak face uphill task

FC Spartak Moskva will have to find a new gear if they are to succeed against Valencia CF.

By Pavle Gognidze

FC Spartak Moskva will have to find a new gear if they are to register any points against Spanish champions Valencia CF in UEFA Champions League Group B tonight.

Under pressure
Spartak's fortunes have suffered recently, after failing to win their last four Russian Premier-Liga fixtures and losing 2-0 at FC Basel last week in the Swiss side's Champions League debut. Indeed, their form has sparked outrage among supporters and in the Russian press, prompting the club to issue a statement.

Homegrown talent
"We took the decision to invest most of our financial resources into the club's infrastructure," said spokesman Alexei Zinin. "In five to seven years, most of our players will be homegrown and we will only remember many foreigners at the club as those who helped us to maintain a minimal level."

Reliant Romantsev
But coach Oleg Romantsev will have no choice but to rely on his foreign legion against Valencia, as key players like Russia captain Yegor Titov and defender Dmytro Parfionov are still sidelined with serious injuries. Romantsev sought support from the fans ahead of the game, saying: "We are relying on the determination of our players and fans."

'Valencia are favourites'
Yet Romantsev is well aware that Valencia will be anything but forgiving to his side's plight. "In our current condition, every team is a serious opponent, but I think that Valencia are favourites in Group B," he added.

Missing men
Valencia coach Raphael Benítez, meanwhile, will have his own headaches ahead of the outing in Moscow. Midfield player Kily González and defenders Fabio Aurélio, Miroslav Djukic and David Navarro all miss the match.

Poor result
Valencia did not enjoy the best of warm-ups for the game after coming back from two goals down to draw with Màlaga CF 2-2 at the weekend. Indeed, Benítez has been attempting to drill into his players that there is no room for complacency and warned them yesterday that even an out-of-form Spartak must be respected, saying: "They have good players and a lot of European experience so it will be hard for us to win tomorrow."

'We will have to battle'
He added: "They have a lot of determination. We do want to win, but I can assure you we will have to battle our way throughout this game and we will have to defend precisely until the very last minute." When asked if he is aware of Spartak's winless streak, Benítez answered: "That's exactly what I am afraid of - this run should end one day."

Last updated: 25/09/02 15.31CET