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Nov 19, 2012

Barca bid to bounce back in Moscow

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has said his team want to bounce back from their 2-1 Champions League defeat at Celtic and guarantee progression from the group stages at Spartak Moscow.

A victory at the Stadion Luzhniki would ensure that the Group G leaders seal a place in the knockout rounds for a ninth successive campaign, while a draw would suffice if Benfica do not beat Celtic in Tuesday's other group game.

Speaking in Moscow at Monday's official pre-game press conference, Vilanova said his team would be going out to win and top the group, while accepting there were no easy games.

"Tomorrow we will try to win to qualify for the next round, as we did in Glasgow," he said. "In any case, there is another game left at home [against Benfica]. People think the group stages are easy but, in the current Champions League, you do not beat anyone easily."

Spartak, fifth in the Russian league after a 1-1 draw at Volga Nizhny Novgorod last weekend, are bottom of Group G and need a win to maintain their faint hopes of progressing. Unai Emery's team did, however, stun the Camp Nou by taking a 2-1 second half league in September's opening group game before Lionel Messi scored twice late on to secure a 3-2 Barca victory.

Vilanova said he had a lot of respect for the Russian side and especially for Emery, whose Valencia team had caused Pe Guardiola's Barcelona regular problems in previous seasons.

"In Barcelona, they [Spartak Moscow] made things very difficult for us," he explained. "They will be a tough opponent.

"Emery is a coach who brings order to his team, both in attack and defence, and we know him well. He also knows us very well from La Liga."

The Catalan coach said he needed to think about how to include his four best central midfielders - Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas - in his starting line-up, something that has only happened twice so far this season.

"Sometimes there is a tactical issue as we have many interiores," he said. "There are games where you only have two places [ahead of Busquets in the centre]. That obliges us to play Iniesta further towards the wing, or a 3-4-3 so Cesc can play.

"In some games, we prefer to play two wingers who open the game more. I can assure you the four will play more together." Barca's only new injury problem after Saturday's 3-1 Primera Division win over Real Zaragoza is an abductor muscle strain for centre-half Marc Bartra, which has ruled the youngster out of action for two to three weeks. First choice central-defensive partnership Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol came through the Zaragoza game unscathed and are likely to start their first Champions League game together since the semi-final exit to Chelsea at the Camp Nou in April.

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