Rubin Kazan vs Barça: Champions League Preview

Varughese RajanContributor IISeptember 27, 2010

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 20:  Lionel Messi (R) of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Vitali Kaleshin of FC Rubin Kazan during the UEFA Champions League group F match between FC Barcelona and FC Rubin Kazan at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 20, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona lost the match 2-1.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The name Rubin Kazan does not invoke happy memories for Barça fans.

Last season, they were the one of the few teams who managed to gain an upper hand against us. Even against Inter we had a record of two wins, 1 defeat and a draw. But Rubin Kazan visited Camp Nou and shocked us all with a victory, and the return visit to Russia ended with a goalless draw.

Barça hopes this year will be different.

Lionel Messi, who was in doubt for this clash, has got the all-clear from the medical team. He has been included in the squad, but will start the match only from the substitute bench. It would be better if he does not play in this match.

Guardiola would be pretty much happy with the effort put by his team at Athletic Bilbao. This is the third extremely difficult away match within the last two weeks. First to Atletico Madrid, then to Bilbao, and we all hope this visit ends up with a similiar result.

Rubin Kazan will present a considerably difficult challenge to Guardiola in terms of tactics. They are definitely going to be more physical than any of the opponents we have faced this season. Moreover, Guardiola also hasn't have registerd a victory against them.

Guardiola has announced the list of 19 players who would make the trip to Kazan - Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal, Busquets, Mascherano, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Pedro, Jeffren, Bojan, Villa and Messi. Abidal and Messi has returned to the squad, but Adriano is missing due to injury.

Guardiola might opt for Abidal instead of Maxwell to give some aerial cover. It's no secret that we had serious trouble dealing with aerial balls in our last match. That means we will mostly back to our traditional backline of Alves, Puyol, Pique and Milito.

The rest of the line up should remain unchanged with Busquets, Keita and Xavi in midfield and Villa, Iniesta and Pedro upfront. Rubin Kazan currently lies second in Russian league and would be quite a tough opponent to crack.

Our first match victory gives us some leverage, and Iniesta's and Xavi's recent form is good news for Barca, but I still think both the teams will settle for a goalless draw this time—and that won't be such a bad thing.