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CSKA Moscow and cross-town rivals Spartak are both involved
CSKA Moscow and cross-town rivals Spartak are both involved in UEFA Cup action on Thursday, and will face Polish and Croatian opposition, respectively.

CSKA Moscow take on Lech Poznan in Moscow in the knowledge that after convincing wins against Spain's Deportivo and the Dutch side Feyenoord they would probably still qualify for spring's playoff stages even if they were to lose their remaining two matches.

The 2005 UEFA Cup winners' manager, Valery Gazzayev, has however pledged to play his strongest side in tonight's match, which will be the former Red Army side's last home game of the season. At the pre-match press conference, Gazzayev reserved special praise for Brazilian striker Vagner Love, who scored 20 goals in this season's Russian Premier League, calling him "one of the best forwards in Europe." The Brazilian is also the 2008/09 UEFA Cup joint top scorer with five goals.

Gazzayev, who led the club to second place in this year's Russian championship, has stated that he will leave the side at the end of the year, citing "tiredness." Since his announcement however, CSKA have been a side transformed, with Love and Russian youngster Alan Dzagoyev striking up a lethal partnership. The club's fans are hoping that the spectacularly-mustachioed trainer will have a rethink and stay on for at least another season.

The match kicks off at 8:00 p.m. (17:00 GMT) at the Luzhniki stadium in the south of the Russian capital.

For Spartak, the situation could not be more different. Having finished in eighth place in this season's Premier League, they are bottom of their UEFA Cup group, and desperately need a good performance away to Dynamo Zagreb to kickstart their campaign, with games against Tottenham Hotspur and Holland's NEC still to come.

"We still have a chance of making the next round," Spartak's trainer, former Danish star Michael Laudrup told the Dynamo Zagreb website, "and we will be going all out for victory."

Laudrup took over the side in early September, and has promised major changes in the Spartak squad for next season.

Spartak lost their first UEFA Cup match 2-1 at home to Italian club Udinese, while Zagreb have had mixed results, beating NEC 3-2 at home before going down 4-0 to Tottenham in London. The game kicks off at 8:45 local time (10:45 p.m. in Moscow).

Russian clubs have established a good record in the UEFA Cup, which will be revamped as the Europa League next season, with CSKA's 2005 triumph followed by Zenit St. Petersburg's lifting of the trophy this May.

Zenit will enter the UEFA Cup from the knockout stages after failing to get out of their Champions League group, finishing behind Juventus and Real Madrid.


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