Spartak Moscow are reeling from the loss of influential midfielder Alex ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League Group F clash with Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium.
The Brazilian midfielder, a key figure in Valery Karpin’s side, has been ruled out of the game after sustaining a thigh injury in Friday’s 3-0 win over Alania Vladikavkaz.
It is a bitter blow to Spartak, who – like Chelsea – boast an unbeaten record in this season’s Champions League campaign.
The Moscow side defeated Marseille 1-0 away and MSK Zilina 3-0 at home in their opening two games to lie second in the pool on goal difference to the English champions.
“Medical tests, which were done on Saturday, revealed a minor tear,” confirmed Spartak coach Karpin.
“He’ll need about seven to 10 days to recover.”
Alex was removed from the action at half-time and his absence is one of a number of injury concerns ahead of the visit of Chelsea.
But Brazilian striker Welliton is expected to recover from a pulled thigh muscle in time to play along with Republic of Ireland winger Aiden McGeady, who did not play against Alania because of a leg injury collected on international duty.
Chelsea will be looking to banish the nightmare of their last visit to the 80-seater Luzhniki Stadium, where they lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United on penalties.
Captain John Terry’s missed spot-kick paved the way for a United victory after the game had ended 1-1 following extra time.
Terry slipped on the wet grass as he went to take his penalty but the surface in the stadium is now artificial.
The two victories for the Muscovites has given fans renewed belief that they can qualify for the knockout stage.
“We had a great start, probably better than some of our fans had expected,” added Karpin.
“But we all know that beating Chelsea would be a totally different proposition from what we had before. So we’re not getting carried away by any means.
“I don’t want to predict the result. We have made a good start and are well positioned in the group now. We will need to put the handcuffs on (Didier) Drogba and (Nicolas) Anelka.”
Karpin may only need one pair of the shackles as Drogba remains doubtful for the game after suffering from a fever that forced him out of Saturday’s goalless draw at Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League.
However, manager Carlo Ancelotti is ready to welcome back Daniel Sturridge, Salomon Kalou and defender Alex into the squad, while Yury Zhirkov is expected to run a gauntlet of hate tomorrow.
He played for Spartak’s rivals CSKA for five years before leaving to join the London club last year.
Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole has lost two Champions League finals, one with Arsenal in 2006 and another with Chelsea in the Luzhniki two years ago.
“To this day I still think about the Champions League finals that I’ve lost,” said Cole.
“Little things like that come into your head, and it makes you more determined to go out and train harder with the guys every day.”