Rubin out to cast spell over Barca again

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.

IRRESISTIBLE FORM

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.

Probable teams:

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 Krkic.

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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