"As difficult as a pre-season training session," was how Lokomotiv Moscow's Vladimir Maminov described his team's preparations in Cyprus for next Tuesday's UEFA Cup clash with Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The Russian league runners-up moved away from the freezing cold of their capital city to prepare for the third round, first leg clash at Bloomfield and yesterday, first-choice goalkeeper Ruslan Nigmatulin and captain Igor Chugainov joined coach Yuri Semin and the rest of the squad.
The Russians have some injury worries before the match, with Chugainov himself not playing in Russia's friendly international fixture in Riga as the Russians beat Latvia 3-1 due to a back injury.
Young star Marat Izmailov also has some foot problems, but appeared determined to take part in yesterday's training despite originally planning only to have a light workout.
Goalkeeper Chugainov played for Russia in Riga and kept a clean sheet for 83 minutes before his replacement, Alexander Pilomonov let in a 30-meter drive for Latvia's consolation goal.
Lokomotiv's players scrutinized Hapoel's play against Chelsea yesterday. Concerning the return leg, the club's senior officials have stated that there is agreement with Hapoel that the match will be brought forward from December 6 to December 4.
Lokomotiv nominated Romanskaya, some 60 km from Moscow as the venue when they host Hapoel, but as conditions may be too harsh, UEFA may decide to move the match to Rostov on the shores of the Black Sea.
Hapoel Tel Aviv could go to the top of the Premier League standings tomorrow if it beats Hapoel Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer in the weekend's featured fixture (kickoff 6:50 P.M. live on Channel 2).
Second place Maccabi Tel Aviv, level on points with arch rival Hapoel, hosts new leader Maccabi Haifa in a top-of-the table clash on Sunday.
Fourth-placed Hapoel Petah Tikva, two points behind the two Tel Aviv clubs, hosts Maccabi Netanya which is one place and one point in arrears.
This weekend's fixtures: Ironi Rishon v. Maccabi Kiryat Gat, Hapoel Petah Tikva v. Maccabi Netanya, Ashdod SC v. Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Be'er Sheva v. Betar Jerusalem, Hapoel Haifa v. Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv v. Maccabi Haifa.
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