FC Spartak Moskva director Valeri Karpin was not exaggerating when he said there was "great interest" in the former Soviet Union as the Russian club prepare to take on FC Dynamo Kyiv for a place in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, according to UEFA.
Former Russia playmaker Karpin stepped in to replace general director Sergei Shavlo in the last few days with Spartak going through a turbulent period. A 5-1 league defeat by PFC CSKA Moskva on 12 July prompted coach Stanislav Cherchesov to dispense with club stalwarts Yegor Titov and Maxym Kalynychenko, with the first leg of the Dynamo game on Wednesday coming at a tough time.
Spartak and last season`s Ukrainian Premier League runners-up Dynamo were the two giants of the Soviet Supreme League, and their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie has caused a major stir. "On paper, there were other teams that would have been better opponents, but we know what we have to do to get past them," said Karpin. "The matches are generating great interest among fans from the former Soviet Union."
Midfielder Aleksandr Pavlenko and forward Welliton returned to training with Spartak on the eve of Saturday`s 1-1 Premier-Liga draw against FC Khimki but the former is unlikely to feature against Dynamo, while Cherchesov felt his players were saving themselves for Wednesday`s game. "Maybe they were already thinking about Dynamo," he said of the Khimki match. "They have to play for 90 minutes and not concede from nothing."
`It is unacceptable`
Dynamo also drew at the weekend, 2-2 at FC Vorskla Poltava, despite leading twice with in-form 23-year-old Artem Milevskiy scoring the first and setting up the second for Ismaël Bangoura. "I am very disappointed with the result," said Milevskiy, who has scored six times in seven games in all competitions this season. "It is unacceptable for a team like ours. Our mood ahead of the Spartak match is not the best."
Shovkovskiy in goal
Coach Yuri Semin took some comfort in his side`s attacking performance in Poltava, but said his side needed to "play more strictly" defence. The return of Pape Diakhate, rested with a minor injury in favour of Oleh Dopilka against Vorslka, may help in that respect. The club also signed FC Metalurh Zaporizhya`s Ukraine Under-21 goalkeeper Stanislav Bogush on a five-year contract at the weekend, but Olexandr Shovkovskiy – who played in the last competitive game against Spartak in 1994/95 – will start on Wednesday.