Tikhonov to make Spartak comeback

MOSCOW - Former Russia midfielder Andrei Tikhonov is making a comeback at the age of 40 for Spartak Moscow in a Russian Cup match on Wednesday.

"I've been training every day. Hopefully I can last 45 minutes at least," Tikhonov, who retired at the end of last year before joining Spartak as assistant coach for the start of the new season, told reporters ahead of the quarter-final tie at home to FK Krasnodar.

Tikhonov's return coincides with Spartak going through one of their worst phases.

Head coach Valery Karpin resigned on Monday after seeing his team lose four of their last five matches, including a 10-3 aggregate drubbing by Porto in the Europa League quarter-finals.

Spartak, Russia's most popular and successful club, are now bottom of the table with four points from five games.

Tikhonov, one of Spartak's most charismatic players, will want his return to spark a revival in the team's fortunes.

He started his professional career with Spartak in 1992, helping them to seven league titles before being unceremoniously dropped by then club boss Oleg Romantsev midway through the 2000 season. Romantsev deeply hurt Tikhonov by labelling him as "finished player".

Tikhonov's dismissal, among other things, proved to be the start of the club's downfall. Spartak have gone through eight different coaches since 2001 but only managed to win one trophy, lifting the Russian Cup in 2003.

After being axed by Spartak, Tikhonov played for various clubs in Russia, Israel and Kazakhstan before ending his career with Division One (Russia's second tier) side Khimki last year.

He was brought back early this year to help Karpin get the most out of the young team that finished fourth last season.

Now, sporting the same crew cut as in his youth, the once speedy winger said he was ready for a new challenge.

"It's not a farewell game of any sort. I'm serious, I want to help my team win," Tikhonov said with a twinkle in his eyes.