MADRID - While most teams go to the Nou
Camp in trepidation, Rubin Kazan travel to Barcelona for their
final Champions League group stage match with a remarkable
unbeaten record against the Spanish giants.
The Russians, who lie third in Group D one point behind
second-placed Copenhagen, have an outside chance of advancing to
the knockout round.
To do so they need to beat Barca, who have already secured
the top spot, while hoping bottom side Panathinaikos avoid
defeat in Denmark.
Rubin have met the Spanish league leaders three times in the
past two seasons and have notched one win and two draws. The
victory came in a shock 2-1 triumph at the home of the then
European champions, in the group stages last October.
"We have nothing left but to beat Barca in our last match,"
Rubin captain Christian Noboa said following a 1-0 home win over
Copenhagen two weeks ago, their first victory in the group that
kept alive their slim hopes.
"We managed to do it last year so we could do it again this
time," added the Ecuador international.
Rubin, who have won the Russian league for the past two
years, could manage a third-place finish only this year which
earns a place in the Champions League qualifiers next season.
Barcelona have been in irresistible form.
They top La Liga by two points from Real Madrid and have won
their last seven consecutive matches in all competitions. They
have not conceded a goal in their last four outings while
scoring 19 times.
Saturday's 3-0 victory away at Osasuna in the league came
after an impromptu 350 kms dash by train and bus because of an
air traffic controllers' strike, but they still prevailed
despite arriving at the stadium just minutes before kick-off.
With qualification and first place already assured Guardiola
will be tempted to rotate his squad, while their 90,000 capacity
stadium is likely to be half empty.
"I ask the fans that they don't desert us because this year
we are going to need them more than ever," Guardiola said after
the Osasuna game.
Playmaker Xavi is among those rested after suffering sore
Achilles tendons earlier in the campaign and Guardiola also left
striker David Villa out of his squad.
Midfielder Seydou Keita was a late withdrawal on Monday with
a knee problem and joins Argentina defender Gabriel Milito on
the injury list.
Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Daniel Alves, 3-Gerard Pique,
26-Andreu Fontas, 19-Maxwell; 14-Javier Mascherano, 16-Sergio
Busquets, 8-Andres Iniesta; 17-Pedro, 10-Lionel Messi, 9-Bojan
Rubin Kazan: 77-Sergei Ryzhikov; 19-Vitaly Kaleshin,
27-Salvatore Bocchetti, 4-Cesar Navas, 3-Cristian Ansaldi;
8-Aleksandr Ryazantsev, 16-Christian Noboa, 66-Bebars Natcho,
14-Alan Kasayev; 61-Gokdeniz Karadeniz, 88-Sergei Kornilenko.
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