UEFA Europa League Preview: Rubin Kazan v Wigan Athletic
Rubin Kazan can take a giant step towards qualification from Group D if they beat Wigan Athletic in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
After three matches, the Russian club sit at the top of the table with seven points following wins over Maribor and Zulte-Waregem, while Wigan held them to a 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium at the end of October.
Victory in the return clash against the English Championship side would put them in a perfect position to qualify for the latter stages, and would also provide a welcome distraction from their troubles domestically.
Rubin are enduring a poor campaign in the Russian Premier League, having only picked up 17 points from 15 matches, and they sit just above the bottom four in 12th place.
Wigan, meanwhile, go into the encounter on the back of a 2-1 win at home against Huddersfield Town.
Manager Owen Coyle is confident that his team can take points from both of their upcoming matches, including the trip to Kazan, and he has called on his players to continue showing the kind of spirit that has got them this far.
"If we can keep creating the chances, the ball will end up in the net, there's no doubt about that. It’s another big week for us – Rubin Kazan away and then Yeovil away (in the league)," he said.
"But we feel we're capable of picking up points from both of them. We want to be at our best at and reward the fans, who have stuck with us throughout.
"The games are coming thick and fast but we have got the heart for the fight.
"We need to keep doing what we're doing and I'm convinced we'll get it right. This is not a team that is not creating chances - anyone can see that."
Following relegation from the Premier League last term, Wigan sit 10th in the Championship, but they have only lost one match from their last seven in all competitions and they are just four points below the play-off places.
Coyle does not have any new injury concerns to contend with, but he will be without Gary Caldwell, Shaun Maloney, Ali Al-Habsi (all hip), Ivan Ramis (knee) and Scott Carson (ankle), meaning that 21-year-old goalkeeper Lee Nicholls will make his Europa League debut on Thursday.
Rubin, meanwhile, are without a victory in their previous five fixtures in all competitions and they were held to a 0-0 draw at Rostov on Sunday following a 4-2 midweek cup defeat away to second division side Luch Vladivostok.
Kurban Berdyev's men do boast an impressive home record in Europe, however. Their last home defeat in continental competition came against Parma in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup, a run that has stretched to 22 matches.
They have most of their squad available for selection, but top-scorer Jose Salomon Rondon will be out of action at least until December with a broken metatarsal.