HAVING kickstarted their Champions League group with a credible 0-0 draw with Portuguese cracks Benfica, Celtic will be looking to go one further in Moscow on Tuesday night and take all three points. The fact that Spartak look to be missing several key players should provide something of a boost for Neil Lennon, coupled with the return from injury of Georgios Samaras, Joe Ledley and Beram Kayal.
However, Spartak have won the Russian Premier League nine times, come second five times and gave Barcelona a fright in their first group game before eventually going down 3-2 thanks to a late winner from Lionel Messi.
Celtic last faced Russian opposition when they took on Dinamo Moscow in 2008. 1-0 down from the first leg at Parkhead and needing to win in Europe for the first time in 23 games (a run stretching back to 2003), goals from Scott McDonald and Georgios Samaras ensured a 2-1 victory for Tony Mowbray’s side. Ironically, a few players who lined up for the Russian side that night are now on Spartak’s books, having jumped ship from a declining Dinamo side - twin brothers Dmitri and Kirill Kombarov both started their careers at Spartak before heading to Dinamo until returning in 2010.
DATE: Tuesday, October 2
KICK-OFF: 5.00pm BST
VENUE: Luzhniki Stadium
TV CHANNEL: Sky Sports 2
Adam Matthews is a doubt for Celtic after damaging his ankle - the Welsh international travelled to Moscow with his foot in a protective cast, whilst striker Lassad Nouioui misses out due to a calf injury. Georgios Samaras, Joe Ledley and Beram Kayal could all be fit for selection, with the latter an unused substitute whilst Samaras and Ledley both came off the bench in the 2-0 win against Motherwell.
The Russian side will be without several key players, with first-choice goalkeeper Andriy Dykan (missing out through a shoulder injury) joining team captain Sergei Parshivlyuk along with Brazilians Romulo and Welliton on the sidelines. Manager Unai Emery is also sweating over the fitness of Evgeni Makeev, Nicolas Pareja, Marek Suchy and Kirill Kombarov. Meanwhile, the club have the services of former Russian Under-21 keeper Sergei Pesyakov to call upon after he returned from a loan spell with Rostov.
Spartak Moscow and Celtic met in season 2007/08 in the Champions League. Both legs finished 1-1, making it 2-2 on aggregate. Extra time failed to produce a winner and Celtic won 4-3 on penalties to advance.
3/5 Moscow win
5/1 Celtic win
Celtic fans will need no introduction to winger Aiden McGeady, and the Russian side also have former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in their ranks. Boasting a number of high-profile internationals including Dutch midfielder Demy De Zeeuw and Sweden’s Kim Kallstrom, Spartak have plenty of quality in their team.
The Parkhead side will be looking to highly-rated Kenyan international Victor Wanyama to provide a bit of steel in midfield, whilst new signing Efe Ambrose should bring some stability to the backline. Striker Gary Hooper could pose a threat to the Spartak defence if he can get decent service from the midfield.