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By Eugeni Sekundo
After a disappointing start to their UEFA Champions League campaign, a home victory against Club Brugge KV on Matchday Six could well see FC Lokomotiv Moskva reach the next stage of the competition.
The Russian club lie bottom in Group H with four points from five games but a win tonight and a draw or defeat for Galatasaray SK against FC Barcelona, who have five wins from five, at Camp Nou will send Lokomotiv through. Semin's men will also be boosted by the 0-0 draw achieved in the first meeting with Brugge in Belgium.
Young striker Ruslan Pimenov has urged Lokomotiv supporters to brave the freezing conditions in the Russian capital. "If the fans come out in numbers, Brugge will not survive," he said. However, Pimenov may yet miss the game himself, after injuring his hip in Lokomotiv's last league outing against FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
Lokomotiv won that match 2-1 and are now involved in a battle for the Russian title with city rivals PFC CSKA Moskva this Sunday. Both teams have 63 points going into the final day. With old foes FC Spartak Moskva definitely out of the race, both in Europe and at home, Lokomotiv could finish this week on a major high.
But for now, the Champions League is all that is occupying the minds, especially after the 2-1 away win against Galatasaray last time out. While Pimenov is doubtful, Semin will be happy with the return of defender Oleg Pashinin and midfield player Narvik Sirkhaev. It remains to be seen whether James Obiorah will be recalled, after being dropped.
Of course, with all the optimism surrounding Lokomotiv, it would be easy to forget that Brugge themselves have an excellent chance of claiming the one qualification spot remaining in Group H. They lie in second place, one point ahead of Lokomotiv which means a draw could suffice if Barça see off Galatasaray.
Trond Sollied has injury troubles too. Norwegian forward Rune Lange is out until January after back surgery, while compatriot Bengt Sæternes is sidelined by a hip injury. Two more on the treatment table, this time with knee trouble, are Ukrainian midfield player Serhiy Serebrennikov and Slovakian defender Marek Spilar.
Going for goals
However, despite the problems, Sollied's men are in upbeat mood. They are four points clear in Belgium and beat fellow Champions League entrants KRC Genk, eliminated last night, 4-0 last Saturday. Sollied is expected to go for goals this evening and is tipped to play with three forwards. "The only outcome that suits us is qualification", said Sollied, even though a UEFA Cup place will go to the team who finish third.
With an exciting match in prospect, goalkeepers could hold the key at the Lokomotiv stadium. Sollied confirmed this by claiming shot-stopper Sergey Ovchinnikov was causing him most discomfort after that goalless draw between the two sides on Matchday Two. "We lost two points there because of him," Sollied said. The one difference tonight is that a repeat result could well ensure Brugge join Barcelona in the last 16.
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