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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak Must Beat Monaco and Math

Spartak Moscow will be clinging to the slimmest chance for European glory when it takes the field against Monaco on Wednesday night at Luzhniki Stadium.


On the brink of mathematical elimination from contention for the semifinals in the Champions Cup, Spartak has not only to win, but to win big. It needs a four-goal victory to keep alive a slight mathematical chance of advancing.


If, by some miracle, Spartak manages to do this, then -- in two weeks time-- it still must defeat Turkish champion, Galatasaray, away while hoping that Barcelona beats Monaco at home. Only then will it make the semifinals.


That is a tall order for a team shellacked 5-1 two weeks ago by Barcelona and 4-1 by Monaco last November. In Spartak's first meeting with Monaco, the Russian champion was stunned, creating doubts about the ability of the Moscow side to compete with the elite European teams. A poor home outing against Galatasaray after the Monaco debacle further eroded the Moscow team's confidence.


For Spartak to come anywhere near its target will require a solid defensive performance from Ramiz Mamedov and Yury Nikiforov to neutralize Monaco's speedy striking duo of Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann and Nigeria's Victor Ikpeba.


In addition, Spartak must attack more aggressively than in previous cup matches. The onus for goal-scoring will fall on Nikolai Pisarev and Vladimir Beschastnykh, but the key to the offense will be midfield general Viktor Onopko. Unless he keeps the attack under control, Spartak's slim chance for advancement will be snuffed out.


Wednesday night draws for either Barcelona, which plays Galatasaray on Wednesday, or Monaco will secure semifinal berths from Group A of the Champions League for those teams. In Group B, AC Milan has a comfortable two-point lead as it heads into its Wednesday night match with the Belgian champion Anderlecht.


The race for the second semifinal spot in Group B is among FC Porto, Werder Bremen and Anderlecht. Porto has four points while Werder and Anderlecht have three each. Porto plays its final road game against Werder before hosting Milan in its final game in two weeks.


Sheffield United Wins


n LONDON (Reuters) -- Relegation-threatened Sheffield United fought back from two goals down to beat West Ham 3-2 and revive its sagging premier league survival hopes at Bramall Lane.


It was its first league win since New Year's Day and came after going two goals down inside the first half hour Wednesday. West Ham went ahead in the ninth minute when Ian Bishop hit a 30-yard shot into the top corner and Matt Holmes linked with Mike Marsh to finish off with an angled shot to add West Ham's second.


Dane Whitehouse replied five minutes from half-time with a 20-yard shot and three minutes after the break skipper Brian Gayle headed in a John Gannon corner. Paul Rogers hammered in the winner in the 73rd minute but the Sheffield club, still third from the bottom, face a stern battle to escape the drop into the first division.