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By Eduard Nisenboim & Igor Linnyk
FC Lokomotiv Moskva's preparations for the crucial UEFA Champions League game against FC Dynamo Kyiv have been hampered by the weather.
Lack of competitive action
The Russian champions have not played competitively for two weeks – although they did draw 2-2 with FC Spartak Moskva in a friendly – and moved south in the hope of better weather, but were frustrated once again. "The weather has let us down," said coach Yuri Semin. "We could not do all we planned. The pitches were flooded, and we had to move to an artificial surface."
Despite worries about his side's potential lack of match sharpness, Semin has defender Gennadi Nizhegorodov back in training after a minor injury. However, striker Ruslan Pimenov is out through injury, while Brazilian playmaker Leandro has returned home to be with his wife following the birth of their daughter.
In addition, Semin admitted his Russian internationals - including matchwinner Vadim Evseev - were "a bit worn out, both physically and emotionally" after last week's UEFA EURO 2004™ play-off win in Wales. "If they can put it all behind them, then we can hope to give it a go," he said.
'Only happy to win'
"The game will be the best answer to the question about our current condition," added the Lokomotiv coach, who appealed to the expected 30,000-strong capacity crowd to get behind his team. "It all depends on us and the fans. We are hoping for their support. This match is very important for both sides.
The winners would have a good chance of advancing from the group. All four teams in the group have an equal chance, but we will only be happy with a win."
Only a point separates Dynamo and Lokomotiv in a congested Group B table, where leaders Internazionale FC have seven points and fourth-placed Arsenal FC four. Despite his optimism, Semin remained wary of the Ukrainian champions, however.
'A big threat'
"It will be an even game, but we understand Dynamo are a big threat on the counterattack," he said. "They move from defence to attack very quickly, and we must not forget this. It has been their principle for many years. Now we have to protect the honour of Russian football and our club."
Back in contention
For the visitors, defenders Yuriy Dmitrulin and Olexandr Holovko are back in contention after injuries, while the fit-again Denis Onischenko is likely to come into midfield in place of Jerko Leko, who is suspended. However, injuries have robbed Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko of Roberto Nanni, Serhiy Fedorov and Florin Cernat.
In good shape
"We have some problems, but we are in a good shape," said the Dynamo coach, who admitted the home side looked stronger now than they did when losing 2-0 in Kiev on Matchday 1. "Lokomotiv have played much better since the home game against us," he said.
"Only a win will satisfy me, so we are going to make them play our game. The chances are equal, but I wouldn't say this is the decisive game for us because there are no favourites in our group.
It is likely that everything will only be clear after the last matchday."
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