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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak Faces Daunting Foe in Inter

While its namesake Spartacus fought a mighty Roman army some 2,000 years ago, Russian champion Spartak Moscow is preparing for a tough battle in its own right against UEFA Cup favorite Inter Milan in semifinal action at the San Siro on Tuesday.

After its impressive victory over Ajax Amsterdam in the quarterfinals, Spartak heads into the home-and-away series against the powerful Italians full of confidence despite a setback in the Russian league opener Saturday.

The Muscovites lost a tough 2-1 decision to Zenit at the filled-to-capacity Petrovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg on a controversial penalty kick.

Spartak goalkeeper Alexander Filimonov, who last week earned his first full international cap against France, was judged to have fouled Alexander Panov inside the penalty box, and Zenit's Moldovan import Alexander Curtianu made no mistake from the spot for the game-winner in the 70th minute.

On Sunday afternoon, Spartak boarded a charter flight to Italy for a full two days of preparation for the match against Inter, which edged out European Cup Winners Cup semifinalist Vicenza 2-1 Saturday in the Italian serie A.

On Tuesday, both teams will be without key players who are suspended. Argentinian Diego Simeone, who scored the first goal for Inter on Sunday, and Spartak's Andrei Tikhonov will sit out the first leg in Milan. Still, Inter has more than enough weapons in its arsenal to keep the Muscovites' defense on edge. Brazilian Ronaldo and Youri Djorkaeff will spearhead the Italian attack. The Frenchman, after being kept off the scoresheet last week in a friendly against Russia in Moscow, is eager to get a second crack at Filimonov.

For the Muscovites, Spartak's Alexander Shirko figures to be the main man as he hopes to match his Ajax scoring output against Inter. The lanky forward, nicknamed Shearer by his teammates after England striker Alan Shearer scored three of his team's four goals in the two games against the Dutch propelling his club into the semifinals.