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Certain to progress to the round of 32 with a draw against PAOK FC and likely to qualify even with a defeat, FC Rubin Kazan are nevertheless treading carefully before their concluding UEFA Europa League Group A fixture.
A point behind PAOK but three clear of Tottenham Hotspur FC ahead of their matchday six trip to Salonika, Kurban Berdyev's team have a further buffer: an identical head-to-head record with Spurs – who go to Shamrock Rovers FC – means they would need to surrender a superior goal difference of five even if everything else went against them.
Midfielder Petr Nemov, though, insists the Russian outfit have eyes only for their own assignment and are keen not to be distracted by events in Dublin. "We will play just for a win," he said. "It is our mentality to control our own destiny, we don't want to depend on somebody else's assistance. The mission of qualifying is not yet accomplished and we need to make the last step in Greece."
Nemov, whose sole group stage appearance came in the 2-2 draw with PAOK in Kazan on matchday two, knows the threat of the section leaders. "I still remember their central midfielders," the 28-year-old said. "They played well in a passing style and created lots of problems for us by playing long balls behind our defenders. I wouldn't say we are thinking about revenge – we would prepare the same way for any opponents."
Not back in domestic action again until March, Rubin have been warming up for their final outing of 2011 at a training camp in Campoamor, near Alicante. "Despite it being a resort we have tried to avoid thinking about relaxing. We all know it will be the last match of the year, a very important one. Let's go and enjoy it, and only then go on holiday."
Berdyev's charges headed into the winter break of their 18-month transitional Premier-Liga campaign in fifth position, buoyed by successive victories against PFC CSKA Moskva and FC Dinamo Moskva. "Overall it is a good season," added Nemov. "It is not the best but not the worst either. This year has been a transitional one for us as we were switching to a new playing style. Step by step it is starting to emerge."
Rubin's last push of the year has been made harder by the news PAOK striker Dimitris Salpingidis, scorer of three UEFA Europa League goals in four outings, is fit following a stomach problem. Home coach László Bölöni will, however, be without Kostas Chalkias, Pablo Contreras and Sakis Papazoglou. Berdyev, meanwhile, is missing Aleksei Eremenko as well as long-term absentees Carlos Eduardo and Aleksandr Orekhov.
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