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Stretched Spartak size up Barcelona

Unai Emery said his side had "reason for optimism" as FC Spartak Moskva play host to FC Barcelona whose coach Tito Vilanova is well aware that "playing in Russia is difficult".

Unai Emery knows from his time at Valencia what to expect from Barcelona
Unai Emery knows from his time at Valencia what to expect from Barcelona ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Spartak Moskva are beset with injury problems, but their Spanish coach Unai Emery is still aiming for three points as FC Barcelona head to Moscow in UEFA Champions League Group G. Tito Vilanova, meanwhile, is adamant that a bit of cold weather will not unsettle his side as they look to secure a place in the round of 16 in the wake of their 2-1 loss at Celtic FC last time out.

Unai Emery, coach
The fact that we are playing Barcelona means it will be a difficult match. However, we have reason for optimism because we are also a strong team and have won two of our last three games. We will try to take any opportunities that we have and play our own game. Our goal is to get three points because we want to be playing in Europe in the spring.

In recent times we have gone through a bad spell with injuries piling up but we have to deal with this. We still have a pre-match training session ahead of us and our starting lineup will not be so bad but we know we will be without Artem Dzyuba and Aiden McGeady.

Weekend result
Saturday: FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod 1-1 Spartak (Salugin 45+3; D Kombarov 13)
Rebrov; Makeev, Insaurralde, Pareja, D Kombarov; Gorbatenko (Kozlov 60), Carioca, Ari, Bryzgalov (Källström 80), Jurado (K Kombarov 60); Emenike.

• Spartak extended their unbeaten Premier-Liga run to four matches in Novgorod.

Team news
Dzyuba misses out with a hamstring injury and McGeady is sidelined with a foot complaint. Goalkeeper Artem Rebrov is still recovering from a shoulder strain and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov continues his rehabilitation from groin surgery and will play no part.

Tito Vilanova, coach
I know Unai Emery for his work with Valencia – his teams attack and defend well. We have not come up against each other very often, so there could be some surprises.

Russian teams are now buying good, expensive players from around the world, and they have done a lot of good work in youth development. Playing in Russia is difficult, because there are very good players and coaches here, and the weather is different too. However, for now the weather is good, and we have played in cold conditions recently – if you want to win the Champions League, you have to be able to beat any opponent.

We will have to play well. I, of course, expect maximum commitment from all the players. Maybe if we had beaten Celtic we would have left some players at home, but this is a very important match. We need to play well and win to finish top of the group. We have not qualified yet. This is a tough group, so it is no easy task.

Weekend result
Saturday: Barcelona 3-1 Real Zaragoza (Messi 16 60, Song 28; Montañés 24)
Valdés; Montoya, Piqué, Puyol (Bartra 75), Alba; Xavi, Song, Iniesta; Pedro (Fàbregas 78), Messi, Villa (Tello 61).

• Barcelona maintained their three-point lead at the top of the standings, equalling Real Madrid CF's best start to a Liga season set in 1991/92.

• Lionel Messi's double took him to within seven goals of Gerd Müller's record of 85 for club and country in a calendar year (1972), while Alex Song's first-half effort was his first for the club since signing from Arsenal FC in the summer.

Team news
Carles Puyol returned at the weekend following a dislocated elbow to partner Gerard Piqué in defence for the first time since 15 September. An adductor strain sustained in training on Sunday has ruled Marc Bartra out of the trip to Russia, while Adriano (adductor), Thiago Alcántara, Isaac Cuenca, Marc Muniesa (all knee) and Éric Abidal (liver transplant) remain on the sidelines.

Match fact
• Víctor Valdés, Puyol and Xavi Hernández were in the Barcelona side that won 3-1 at FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League first group stage – the Azulgrana's only victory from six trips to Russia.

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