Moscow: An artificial pitch, freezing conditions in Moscow and a wily coach who knows them all too well are some of the obstacles that stand between Group G leaders Barcelona and qualification to the last 16 on Tuesday. The La Liga leaders take on Spartak still smarting form a shock 2-1 defeat at Celtic last time round, and have flown to Russia with all their big guns to make sure of a point that would assure their passage into the last 16.
"The artificial pitch and the cold will not be a problem or an excuse," Barca's Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas told a news conference on Monday. Teams in the Champions League are always dangerous, and in Russia it is always tough. It will be a difficult match but we aren't thinking we'll qualify if we get a point. We want to win. We always play the same way and we will have to adapt to whatever they throw at us."
Barca have nine points from four games, two ahead of Celtic in second place. Benfica have four and Spartak are bottom with three points.
"Russian teams are now spending a lot of money and recruiting good players from around the world, and they have done a lot of good work on youth development, " Barca coach Tito Vilanova said.
"They have good players and coaches and the weather is different too. However, for now the weather conditions are good and we have played in cold conditions recently. If you want to win the Champions League you have to be able to beat anyone."
Spartak's Spanish boss Unai Emery is well known to Barca from his work with Almeria and Valencia in La Liga over the last few years. Although he has a poor record against Barca, with no wins from 14 attempts, he has often run them very close with some clever tactical changes.
"We know Emery very well and he has always caused us problems," Vilanova added. "His teams are always very organised in attack and defence. There could be some surprises."
Barca have defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique back fit again, but travelled without full back Marc Bartra who damaged a muscle in training on Sunday.