Lionel Messi could return for Barcelona in Wednesday's Champions League match at Rubin Kazan with the Spanish champions determined not to repeat last year’s mistake of taking the Russian side too lightly.
Rubin drew 0-0 at home and then stunned Pep Guardiola's outfit 2-1 at the Nou Camp in the group stage last season.
"Last year they taught us a thing or two. You have to win the three points on the field of play," Barca sports director Andoni Zubizarreta told the club's website before the Group D match.
"Rubin surprised us beating us at home and this had an effect on the group standings. (In the away leg) the weather conditions and the way they played made it very complicated for us.
"This time we go with one game under our belts and at a time of year when the weather is a little milder."
They are also lifted by news that Messi, whose ankle injury from a week ago has been a major talking point in Spain, had been included in the squad. Even though he has not been passed fit yet by the club's medical staff, he is expected to play a part.
In the Argentina forward's absence Barca have notched up two more league victories and have now won four games on the trot, including a 5-1 mauling of Panathinaikos two weeks ago, since their surprise slip-up at home to promoted Hercules in La Liga.
Messi's return will also be welcomed by Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev, who had been disappointed earlier in the week that he would not be playing.
"You always want to test yourself against the best," he told local media. "I would really like to see him play. I'm sure thousands of Rubin fans would say the same thing."
High-flying Valencia to host Man Utd
Madrid: Valencia should not get carried away with their strong start to the season and must be fully focused when they host Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday, goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez said on Monday.
The financially-troubled Spanish club were forced to sell prize assets David Villa and David Silva in the close season and the consensus was that they would be unable to match their third-place finish in La Liga last term. Valencia kicked off their Champions League campaign with an impressive Group C win over Bursaspor, thumping the Turkish champions 4-0 away as United stuttered to a 0-0 home draw with Scottish side Rangers.
"Being top of the (Spanish) league is always nice but at this level it's irrelevant," Sanchez said on Valencia's website.
First home test for Inter's Benitez
Milan: Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez brushed off talk of a crisis at the European and Italian champions ahead of their Champions League clash against Werder Bremen at the San Siro.
Inter entertain the Germans on Wednesday in their first home clash following a 2-2 draw away to FC Twente in their opening Group A match.
All four teams -- the other being Tottenham -- are level after both opening games finished in four-goal stalemates.
While both teams are beset by injuries, both will be able to call on their main playmakers -- Inter's Wesley Sneijder and Werder's Marko Marin -- an area in which Benitez believes his team has the advanatge.
"Werder are a good, experienced team, they have injuries but so do we, something which is normal in modern football given the great intensity," Benitez said.
"But it will be a tough match, all the teams drew in the first week so we're all in the same situation. It's true that Marin is a great player but right now I prefer Wesley because he's playing for us.”