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By Matt Gatward
These are definitely happy times for FC Lokomotiv Moskva but the real test of their spectacular progress is still to come.
Yuri Semin's team won the Russian title for the first time in their history last week when they beat PFC CSKA Moskva 1-0 in a play-off. That followed their unprecedented qualification for the UEFA Champions League second group stage when they pipped Club Brugge KV to second spot. However, stage two contains many strong teams and their first examination at this exalted level comes against the German champions BV Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Semin is determined his team remain focused. "The emotions [of winning the title] have gone and now we feel a huge responsibility as we play in the most prestigious European Cup as the champions of Russia," Semin said. "The [Dortmund] game is a huge test, and we cannot afford to relax.
If we produce the same performances as in the last three Champions League games the results will come."
Lokomotiv are in a tricky-looking Group C where Dortmund at home is arguably their easiest game. "I am not too worried about the Borussia game even though they have to be taken seriously," Semin said, "but the game at Real [Madrid CF] on 11 December will be incredibly hard for us." The Italian league leaders AC Milan complete the group.
Lokomotiv are a versatile side who rely on their captain and midfield player Dmitri Loskov, who many feel will win Russian player of the season for 2002. However, Semin knows they will have to be aware of Dortmund's threat. "They have Brazilians [Ewerthon and Marcio Amoroso] who add to their artistic skills. The height of striker Jan Koller can be a problem and [Christoph] Metzelder and [Christian] Wörns are dangerous at set-pieces," said Semin, who has a full squad to choose from. Midfield player Vladimir Maminov and forward Ruslan Pimenov picked up knocks against CSKA but are available.
Dortmund's coach Matthias Sammer, meanwhile, will be looking for an improvement in his side's recent performances especially as he knows from experience how difficult it is to get a result in Russia.
Lack of concentration
Dortmund have lost four of their last five matches and on Saturday were beaten by VfL Wolfsburg and dropped to fourth in the 1. Bundesliga eight points behind leaders FC Bayern München. "This loss is really irritating," Sammer said. "
We need to prove ourselves in the Bundesliga and the Champions League is a nice additional snack. Our problem has been our lack of concentration and not our lack of class. Lately, I have seen only contentment in the players. That has to change [on Tuesday]," Sammer added.
Dortmund have concerns over Metzelder who has a thigh injury, defender Stefan Reuter who has knee problems, and striker Heiko Herrlich who has a calf strain. But most of all they should be concerned about a buoyant Lokomotiv side.
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