Eurozone: Mourinho's cold snap and other Champions League pointers

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The Independent Online

It's not quite the Siberia some of Jose Mourinho's adversaries back in Italy would like to send him to but tonight's trip to Kazam, in deepest Russia, will provide a stern test for the Special One's walking wounded.

Internazionale will be missing several key players as they face Rubin Kazam in what will be the Russian title holders first-ever home Champions League tie. And they must do so without Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Motta, Marco Materazzi and Sulley Muntari who are all injured and with top scorer Diego Milito carrying a knock.

Mourinho is back talking to the media after a week of boycotting press conferences in response to being sent off against Cagliari but Sampdoria coach Luighi Del Neri, whose side beat Inter 1-0 at the weekend to go top of Serie A, has suggested he shut up again after a spiky exchange between the two.

Responding to the suggestion that Del Neri was his nemesis, Mourinho said: "I won the Champions League at Porto, they got rid of him after just 15 days; he beat me with Atlanta, but he lost at the San Siro; he won at the weekend, I will win the next time. He is hardly my nemesis." Del Neri responded: "Maybe it's better when he is not talking".

Inter could be out of the top two if they slip up tonight and Barcelona win at home to Dynamo Kiev. Mourinho has already been reminded of his less-than-perfect record in the Champions League by owner Massimo Moratti.

Mourinho has not won in Europe for six games but he defended his record saying: "I have won one Champions League and played three semi-finals, I have never been eliminated in the group stages. Last year we were not at our best in the early stages of the tournament but we got through and were knocked out by the reigning European Champions at the time."



Guardiola gamble pays off

No Barcelona coach in recent history has raced to 50 victories as quickly as Pep Guardiola who chalked up his half century of wins at the weekend in just 71 games. Tonight his European Cup holders face Dynamo Kiev for whom former Chelsea striker Andrei Shevchenko could start on his 33rd birthday.

Guardiola was a huge gamble back at the start of last season having just completed his first-ever season as a coach with Barcelona's B team. But his record start beats that of Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard and Louis van Gaal who took 82, 83 and 89 matches respectively to reach 50 wins.

Barcelona face Group F leaders Kiev without Thierry Henry who has a groin strain. The Frenchman will be replaced by a player who hasn't started a home match since last April. Andres Iniesta should line-up in attack alongside Leo Messi (left) and Zlaten Ibrahimovic. That partnership has rendered 10 goals and the Swede has hit the net in all five league games.



Rangers in need of goals

After a three straight goalless draws in the league Rangers face one of Europe's highest-scoring teams tonight. Seville have hit 12 goals in their first five La Liga games. Their visit to Ibrox marks their return to Glasgow two years after they retained the Uefa Cup at Hampden Park in 2007 beating Espanyol on penalties. President Jose Maria del Nido said: "We have happy memories from this city but we know that Rangers are an experienced side used to playing in this competition." Seville have Brazilian Luis Fabiano, Freddie Kanouté, and Alvaro Negredo fighting for the two starting berths in attack.



Ronaldo set for lean spell?

Christiano Ronaldo will lead Real Madrid's attack in Marseilles tomorrow night with a witch doctor's voodoo spell hanging over him. The Spanish club received a letter on Friday stating the player would now suffer injury and a lack of form. "I have nothing against Real Madrid," explained the anonymous witch doctor, "I am just doing my job in accordance with the requests of my client who is both famous and known personally to the player."

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