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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inter Rolls In for Rematch Against Spartak




With the national team slinking into a European championship qualifying debacle, Russian soccer fans hope the country's most popular team will do the business Wednesday as Spartak Moscow faces Italian giant Inter Milan in the European Champions League.


A crowd of near 80,000 is expected for the fourth meeting of the two teams in six months. The previous three games ended in 2-1 losses for Spartak, but this time the Russian champion is in better shape then the UEFA Cup holders for the Group C match.


The pressure is on Inter and coach Gigi Simoni after three straight defeats in the Italian serie A. If the team doesn't wake up for Wednesday's game and the Milan derby next Sunday then Simoni is unlikely to survive November.


The Italians are also missing various key players - including forward Roberto Baggio and French midfielder Youri Djorkaeff - but hope to have Brazilian striker Ronaldo up front. Despite playing only two full games this season the world player of the year may be the difference yet again - he scored the winner two weeks ago and shone in Inter's 3-2 home loss to Bari on Sunday.


The partisan Spartak fans - who cost the club $20,000 in fines four weeks ago at the Spartak-Real Madrid match - showed little anti-Inter feeling Monday, according to Sport Express, as they welcomed the UEFA Cup champion at Sheremetyevo airport and clamored for autographs of its top stars.


With both sides on six points - along with group leader Real Madrid - anyone who takes three points Wednesday will be the favorite to qualify.


"I've got a feeling Spartak will win," Russian Soccer Union president Vyacheslav Koloskov said Tuesday, "From what I've heard all the players are fit [and] of course the support of 80,000 in the stadium will help."


The pitch is likely to favor Spartak with the Moscow weather taking its toll.


"The weather and field conditions will be difficult for both teams,'' Spartak coach Oleg Romantsev was quoted by Sport Express as saying. "However, we are training in these conditions all year and we are more used to them.''


But despite their bad form, Inter players were confident on their arrival in Moscow, vowing to go for a victory.


"In spite of our series of losses in the Italian championship we think that no Moscow weather will prevent us from showing some beautiful soccer," said Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano. Ronaldo added that he was going for another goal against the Spartak defense, adding to three in the last two meetings.


Some tickets may still be on sale at Luzhniki Stadium. Tickets cost from 85 rubles to 500 rubles. Kickoff is 7:45 p.m.