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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Braces for UEFA Showdown




UEFA Cup finalists Olympique Marseilles and Parma were set to touch down in Moscow late Monday in preparation for the first ever European cup final held on Russian soil.


A full house is expected Wednesday at Luzhniki stadium even though only just over half of the 77,000 tickets have been sold.


"We have a habit of buying tickets at the last moment," said Luzhniki stadium press officer Sergei Borisov.


With 37,000 tickets left, the Luzhniki ticket office will be open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets cost 50, 100, 200 and 500 rubles ($2 to $21).


Parma, currently third in serie A and the recent winner of the Italian cup, is the favorite for the final. The team warmed up for the final Saturday with a 3-1 win at Inter Milan. Colombian striker Faustino Asprilla scored one goal and made another as Parma almost certainly booked its place in next season's Champions League.


The Italians will face a depleted Marseilles side. Second in the French league, Marseilles will be without five of its best players, including Fabrizio Ravenelli and Christophe Dugarry, who were suspended after a brawl at Marseilles' UEFA Cup semifinal against Bologna.


Moscow city government, and its soccer-loving mayor, Yury Luzhkov, is welcoming the teams and the fans with open arms. Banners are already up on main streets of the city, a welcome desk will be set up at Sheremetyevo and the Moscow metro will extend its hours to make sure fans get home.


With kickoff held back f because of television requirements f to 10 p.m. the match could lead to the metro staying open half the night.


"I personally guarantee that all soccer lovers will be able to get home," said Luzhkov in an interview with Trud newspaper.


The mayor, who before the financial crisis had a penchant for ensuring big Moscow events had good weather by providing funds for planes to clear the clouds, couldn't promise a clear day for the match.


"You know that today good weather comes at a price. So far we are at her mercy but you know she is also a football fan," Luzhkov said.


The stadium says that at least 1,600 Parma fans and 3,300 Marseilles fans will be flying in to support their teams. But the final total may be much higher as fans buy tickets through unofficial travel agents and via the Internet.


With most fans expected to fly in Wednesday and fly out straight after the match, special buses have been laid on from the airport and customs have been primed to let the fans through quickly.