Sneijder fit for crucial Kazan clash

MILAN - Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder is poised to return for Wednesday's final Champions League Group F game with Rubin Kazan, when the victors will get a last-16 berth and the losers will face elimination.

Dutchman Sneijder has been missing in each of Inter's three defeats this term, including the loss at Barcelona two weeks ago and Saturday's 2-1 Serie A reverse at Juventus.

His recovery from a thigh problem is a big boost for the Italian champions and league leaders, who have thrived when the 25-year-old has been available to link the midfield with strike duo Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito.

Sneijder, signed from Real Madrid in August, has trained for the past two days and Eto'o is pleased that his team mate is fit.

"What matters on Wednesday is that we play a great game with everyone contributing and that we win and get through," the Cameroon international told Inter's television channel.

Marauding right back Maicon returns after being suspended against Juve, meaning captain Javier Zanetti will move to left back in place of the banned Cristian Chivu.

Defeat would stun Inter coach Jose Mourinho, who masterminded a fourth Serie A title in his first season last term but was largely brought in to end the club's long wait for a third European Cup after their 1964 and 1965 triumphs.


After the Russian league season ended last week, Rubin held a week-long training camp in Barcelona to prepare for their final game of the year.

The Russian champions, who beat holders Barca in their last European away game, will miss regular central defender Roman Sharonov with a knee problem while top striker Alexander Bukharov remains doubtful after injuring his hand in training.

"We'll make a decision on Bukharov on the day of the game," Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev said.

A 0-0 or 1-1 draw would be enough for Inter to progress if leaders Barcelona avoid defeat at Dynamo Kiev in the other group game, while Rubin would sneak through at the expense of the Italians with a 2-2 or higher score draw if Barca get a result.

Teams (probable):

Inter Milan: 12-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 25-Walter Samuel, 6-Lucio, 4-Javier Zanetti; 8-Thiago Motta, 19-Esteban Cambiasso, 5-Dejan Stankovic; 10-Wesley Sneijder; 9-Samuel Eto'o, 22-Diego Milito

Rubin Kazan: 77-Sergei Ryzhikov; 9-Lasha Salukvadze, 19-Vitaly Kaleshin, 4-Cesar Navas, 3-Cristian Ansaldi; 15-Alexander Ryazantsev, 16-Christian Noboa, 7-Sergei Semak, 61-Gokdeniz Karadeniz; 10-Alejandro Dominguez, 11-Alexander Bukharov or 42-Rafal Murawski

Referee: Pieter Vink (Netherlands)