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Dec 9, 2021 at 5.45pm UK
LegiaLegia Warsaw
Spartak MoscowSpartak Moscow

Martins (24'), Pesqueira (26'), Slisz (44'), Kastrati (61'), Wieteska (81')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Bakaev (17')
Promes (34'), Dzhikiya (61'), Melkadze (80')

Preview: Legia Warsaw vs. Spartak Moscow - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Legia Warsaw vs. Spartak Moscow - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Legia Warsaw and Spartak Moscow, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Only two points separate the four clubs in Europa League Group C before Thursday's final matchday, so Legia Warsaw host Spartak Moscow still able to finish anywhere between second and last.

While Spartak will top the group if they secure three points and Leicester fail to beat Napoli - or finish second if they match the English side's result - Legia simply must win in Warsaw to progress.

Match preview

Legia, who won their opening two group fixtures, fell to a third successive defeat last time out in Europe: going down 3-1 at Leicester City, when Filip Mladenovic's finish was their only strike in a four-goal first half.

Therefore stranded on six points, the Legionisci are now bottom of the group, but still just two adrift of leaders Leicester and one behind both Napoli and this week's opponents.

Although the Polish champions cannot now finish first, victory on Thursday would guarantee them second place and a shot at a two-legged knockout tie with one of the eight Champions League dropouts.

However, Legia have faltered badly of late, and in defence of their Ekstraklasa title they sit just two places above the foot of the domestic standings, nearing the halfway stage. Separated from the shame of rock-bottom only by goal difference after Sunday's defeat at Cracovia, they have lost 10 of their 13 matches in all competitions since upsetting Leicester in September.

Championship-winning coach Czeslaw Michniewicz was succeeded by his assistant Marek Golebiewski earlier this season, but a change in the dugout has brought little positive effect in terms of results - though the new boss did post successive wins in league and cup at the turn of the month.

Legia finally made it through to the Europa League group stage this season after four straight eliminations in the competition's qualifying phase, but having conceded 10 times in their last three European outings, now need a rapid about-turn in fortunes if they are to extend their journey further.

Spartak Moscow completed an improbable double over Scudetto contenders Napoli last month, with a 2-1 win in the Russian capital - Aleksandr Sobolev bagging a match-winning brace within the first 28 minutes. That leaves the Muscovites second in Group C with seven points - and crucially above their Neapolitan counterparts by virtue of the clubs' head-to-head record.

Rui Vitoria's men had put their first points on the board in their away meeting with Napoli, but despite leading Leicester 2-0 in the following fixture, an inspired Patson Daka performance saw them crash to a 4-3 home defeat, as the Zambian striker struck four times.

However, they have since got back in the race for the top two with their feats versus Napoli, compensating somewhat for a weak league campaign so far. Vitoria's side sit ninth in the Russian Premier League and had failed to win in five games before they triumphed against the then Serie A leaders.

Since that morale boost, the Krasno-Belye have managed to pick up four points from their last two league fixtures, despite being reduced to 10 men on both occasions - the second being particularly impressive, as in Saturday's 2-1 win over Akhmat Grozny, Sobolev saw red with nearly an hour left to play.

Already 14 points adrift of leaders Zenit with a negative goal difference, Spartak know that their domestic title hopes are over before they even began, but their Europa League destiny remains in their own hands.

Legia Warsaw Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L

Legia Warsaw form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Spartak Moscow Europa League form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • W

Spartak Moscow form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

Team News

While Legia have Poland defender Artur Jedrzejczyk ruled out by suspension for Thursday's decisive clash, influential midfielder Josue returns from a ban and should start; playing in support of top scorer Mahir Emreli up front.

Former Leicester winger Bartosz Kapustka is still out with a serious knee injury, but veteran goalkeeper Artur Boruc recently made his comeback from a back problem and is expected to play. Incidentally, the hosts' 41-year-old stopper saved twice in a 2007 penalty shoot-out for former club Celtic, helping them to qualify for the Champions League group stage at Spartak's expense.

Under pressure to go for the win, Marek Golebiewski could opt for a front two, which would probably see either Tomas Pekhart or Ernest Muci drafted into the attack.

Spartak are also depleted by suspension, as both Ruslan Litvinov and striker Aleksandr Sobolev must serve bans for yellow card accumulation on the final matchday.

In the absence of Sobolev - plus his forward colleagues Ezequiel Ponce and Jordan Larsson - the versatile Georgi Melkadze could feature up front for the away side, alongside the direct threat of Quincy Promes.

Should Rui Vitoria revert to a 3-5-2, then Victor Moses would operate on the right-hand side in a wing-back role, with Ayrton set for the opposite flank.

Legia Warsaw possible starting lineup:
Boruc; Ribeiro, Holownia, Wieteska, Nawrocki; Slisz; Kharatin, Martins, Mladenovic; Josue; Emreli

Spartak Moscow possible starting lineup:
Selikhov; Denisov, Gigot, Dzhikiya, Ayrton; Moses, Ignatov, Hendrix, Bakaev; Melkadze, Promes

We say: Legia Warsaw 1-2 Spartak Moscow

With Legia currently in disarray, this is as good a time as any for Spartak to visit Stadion Wojska Polskiego, and even some men missing in attack should not deter them from leaving with maximum points.

The result in Naples may still determine their destiny, but the Russian side can guarantee some continental football in the spring, while their Polish counterparts bow out.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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