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Natcho refuses to give up on Rubin

FC Rubin Kazan may have settled for third place in Russia this year but midfielder Bebars Natcho is backing them to go one better in Group D, even if FC København stand in their way.

Bebars Natcho has been involved in two home draws so far this group stage
Bebars Natcho has been involved in two home draws so far this group stage ©Getty Images

FC Rubin Kazan midfielder Bebars Natcho is optimistic the deposed Russian champions can still overhaul FC København to finish second in Group D – but accepts that the prerequisite of victory against the Danish titleholders will not come easy.

With Rubin lying third in the pool, four points behind their visitors to the Centralni Stadium, a win is essential if Kurban Berdyev's side are to stay in qualifying contention ahead of their Matchday 6 trip to FC Barcelona. However, Rubin have first-hand knowledge of København's qualities having lost 1-0 in Denmark in September, and Natcho recognises that the main obstacle to his club's UEFA Champions League survival are "very strong from a tactical point of view and a team capable of delivering aggressive performances".

He expanded: "When the group was drawn I wouldn't have expected them to be better than Panathinaikos [FC] but four matches into the competition I can see that I was wrong about FCK."

Even so, the 22-year-old Israeli international – whose debut season in Russian football was initially stalled by injuries – remains hopeful the Tatar club can take advantage of the small window of opportunity open to them, beginning with a first-ever home success in the group stage. "If we fail to beat København we will have no chance whatsoever of getting second place, but there is a first time for everything and hopefully our first win will come on Wednesday," said the former Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC player, who has made three Group D appearances.

Rubin, in their second consecutive UEFA Champions League campaign, have recorded a total of five draws in Kazan and just the one away win – curiously, and auspiciously perhaps given their closing fixture in December, at Barcelona in 2009. "I don't think [the home form] is affecting us mentally," said Natcho. "We drew [1-1] against Barcelona, which was a good result, and if you look at the Panathinaikos game [0-0] we had several good chances but didn't take them."

FCK's captain William Kvist prefers to underscore the hosts' unbeaten home record in the competition, regarding it as a measure of their strength. "They are very strong and patient – not every team can get something out of all their home matches," noted the midfielder. "They are dangerous opponents because of their team play, not because of any particular individual."

The worst-case scenario for Natcho, meanwhile, would be having to settle for third place, and a spring tilt at the UEFA Europa League. "We are certainly well situated to take that slot, as Panathinaikos are below us [by one point] in the table." Rubin, champions in 2008 and 2009, have also been consigned to that position in Russia's Premier-Liga, behind FC Zenit St Petersburg and PFC CKSA Moskva, with one game to go in their domestic campaign.

Natcho has contributed two goals in 14 league matches since overcoming his injury problems, yet is not entirely satisfied with the year's individual or collective outcome. "I wouldn't say this is the best result in my career because we did not win the championship," said a player who experienced a State Cup triumph with Hapoel. "Of course, to win bronze medals in Russia is more difficult than to win Israeli Cups, but I want to come first here."

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