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Rubin Kazan – Could They do a Porto?

In 2002, Rubin Kazan won promotion to the Russian Premier League for the first time. In 2004, the club reaped the rewards of a phenomenal season, with a first ever European campaign. That season was the first of two in which Rubin’s fans had UEFA Cup football bestowed upon them. And now, after winning the league last season, the Tatary find themselves level on points at the top of Group F in the Champions League. So, just how far can Rubin Kazan go?

The 30,000 seater Central Stadium plays host to Champions League football for the first time this season

Gurban Berdiýev’s men started in disappointing, if somewhat expected fashion, with a 3-1 defeat against Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine. In a group including the European champions Barcelona, and 17-time Italian champions Inter Milan; it seemed defeat to the group’s third-seed team would condemn the Russians to an early exit.

However, an early goal against Inter Milan in their second group game saw Rubin return to the kind of form that saw them rise above Russian giants, such as CSKA Moscow, to top the league last season. The Italian side went on to equalise, but the mood did not change, and the draw was accepted as one of, if not the greatest result in the club’s history.

Just as they were thinking that they could now bow out of the competition with their heads held high, they travelled to the Nou Camp. Home of the European champions – officially the greatest team in the continent. The Rubin players were most likely preparing to set up shop, when Aleksandr Ryazantsev stunned the stadium with a strike worthy of any of the great arenas. It looked as if Barcelona would go on to win the game when Ibrahimovic equalised, but Karadeniz grabbed the winner for the Russian champions.

Rubin Kazan became one of very few teams to win at the Nou Camp in recent years

So they now sit level with Dynamo Kyiv and Barça on four points, at the top of Group F. Hosting the latter in their next Champions League fixture, Rubinovye will have real belief that they can get something out of the match, and possibly progress to the last sixteen in their debut season.

They will no doubt have the success of Porto in 2004, when they overcame all odds to win the competition. And, indeed, the success of Monaco the same season, who the winners played in the final. So, if Rubin can escape the group that, when it was announced, had two sides seemingly nailed down to progress; they will firmly believe in their chances.

Of course, the knock-out format would not suit the Russian side, with two-legged ties slimming the chances of an upset. All of these thoughts will undoubtedly be crossing the minds of everybody at the club, but if they forget about where they are and enjoy their football; who knows how far they could progress?

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