CSKA Moscow's presence in the UEFA Cup final against Sporting Lisbon today throws up the prospect of a first ever European trophy for a Russian club.
Coach Valery Gazzaev's side have knocked out impressive sides such as Benfica, Partizan Belgrade, Auxerre and Parma on their way to this final at the Jose Alvalade stadium, ironically Sporting's home ground.
Dynamo Moscow's defeat in the now-defunct European Cup Winners Cup final in 1972 was the sole appearance by any Russian club in a final, though if you add clubs from the former Soviet Union, you find three Cup Winners Cup champions -- Dynamo Kiev in 1975 and 1986, and Dynamo Tbilisi in 1981.
Gazzaev has reason to be optimistic with his side which has a wealth of talent in the attacking department as long as the young average age of the team -- just 22 -- does not count against them.
Brazilians Vagner Love and Daniel Carvalho have an inspirational effect on the rest of the team together with Russian under-21 international Yuri Zhirkov, who was superb in the 4-0 thrashing of Auxerre in the home leg of the quarterfinal, scoring two goals and setting up another.
However their first ever victory over an Italian club, in their 3-0 aggregate win over Parma in the semifinals, really showed their pedigree.
CSKA were invincible on their own ground, scoring 11 goals without reply in their four home matches from the last 32 onwards.
Moscow's 19-year-old keeper Igor Akinfeev even told the Russian press he was looking beyond this year's UEFA Cup, saying: "If we continue playing the way we have been, we will soon be playing in the Champions League final."
However, CSKA know Sporting will prove tough opposition particularly as the final is on their own pitch. Sporting have a fully-fit squad, including Brazilian Liedson who is the top scorer in Portugal with 24 goals.
Liedson was suspended for their 1-0 defeat at Benfica on Saturday following his fifth yellow card but is available today.
Coach Jose Peseiro has Nigerian defender Joseph Enakarhire and midfielders Rogerio and Carlos Martins back from injury which will boost his pool of players to choose from.
Neutrals have Sporting as the favorites. Only 2,000 to 3,000 CSKA supporters are likely to be present in the 50,000-capacity stadium, which will be a huge plus to Sporting.
The stadium opened in August 2003 and was used for the Euro 2004 tournament won by Greece and is the second-largest footballing venue in Lisbon behind Benfica's Stadium of Light.
Portugal's recent successes in European competition show the country has the players to excel at the highest level. Apart from Portugal reaching last year's Euro 2004 final, FC Porto won the Champions League last season and the UEFA Cup the year before.
Just days before Portugal's most important sporting occasion of the year, supporters are already getting in the mood by decorating their cars with flags and scarves in the green and white colors of Sporting.
And billboards advertising the match can be seen on the main roads of the capital as well as other strategic places such as airports.
And Barcelona's Deco, who won last season's Champions League with Porto, also firmly backed his countrymen.
"Sporting's performance this season proves the quality of Portuguese football. I fully back them," he said.
Kamaru Usman put on a Fight Island masterclass yesterday to retain his UFC welterweight world title by grinding down a brave Jorge Masvidal in Abu Dhabi. “I’m at the top of the mountain and everyone’s looking at me,” said the 33-year-old Usman after scoring a unanimous points decision 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 on the three judges’ cards. The Nigerian-American Usman (17-1) looked the fresher fighter, with Masvidal (35-14) having taken the UFC251 headline bout at just six days’ notice when Brazil’s Gilbert Burns (19-3) tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to travel. The Las Vegas-based UFC pulled off a power-packed schedule with
MONKEYS ALSO WIN: The Rakuten Monkeys kept the Brothers from the first-half title as they dominated the Uni-President Lions, scoring four in the fourth The CTBC Brothers still need another win to clinch the first-half CPBL title, despite thrashing the hapless Fubon Guardians 17-0 yesterday, after the Rakuten Monkeys beat the Uni-President Lions 9-2. Fans of CTBC Brothers were hoping to celebrate the first-half title, with a crowd of more than 10,000 packed into the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium for their home game against the Guardians. The figure was an attendance record for this year, when baseball and most other major sports events worldwide have been played in empty venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Entering the game, CTBC had pushed their magic number down to 2, meaning
Thailand international Pitsamai Sornsai, a new arrival for Inter Taoyuan, is to lead her team against Taipei Bravo tomorrow in the 10th round of the Taiwan Mulan Football League. Sornsai, who is nicknamed Pui, has attracted interest from media and fans as the first foreigner signed to play in Taiwan’s women’s league. Inter are among six teams battling for the title this year. The addition of Sornsai is a boost for the international profile of women’s soccer in Taiwan and elevates the competition. The 31-year-old brings a wealth of experience, including from the Asian Football Confederation’s Women’s Championship, the Southeast Asian Games and
Preparing to complete a ninth Serie A campaign without winning the scudetto, AC Milan decided that returning to the pinnacle of club soccer required a new approach. Roc Nation, the entertainment agency of US rapper Jay-Z is at the center of it, linking up with Milan to scour the world for sponsors, and use concerts and other high-profile events to attract new fans. And who better to ask about how to end a title drought than the team who just won their league for the first time in 30 years? “We have been talking to Liverpool, because they’ve been through the same path