Barca looks to extend perfect start

After handing coach Tito Vilanova a perfect league start, Barcelona will look to extend its form to the UEFA Champions League when it opens Group G against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday evening (Thursday morning AEST).

The Spanish team leads the league after winning all four of its games and, despite losing the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid, has opened up an eight-point lead over its biggest domestic rival.

Vilanova is no stranger to Barcelona's recent success in the competition, having been assistant coach when the Catalan club won the competition in 2008 and 2011. But the relative ease in which he has been able to take over a team led by Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta has still been somewhat surprising.

"I don't feel any extra pressure because of it because I've already been here four times before," Vilanova said. "I put the pressure on myself, it doesn't come from the outside."

Vilanova will be without Iniesta and Carles Puyol (leg injuries) and Jordi Alba (flu), while Alexis Sanchez has made the squad but without medical clearance to play.

Barcelona hasn't been beaten in 16 UCL matches at the Camp Nou. Not since a 2-1 loss to another Russian club, Rubin Kazan, in October 2009.

David Villa continues to put his leg injury behind him as the Barcelona striker scored for the second time this season in a 4-1 win at Getafe, where Messi came on as a substitute to take his season tally to eight goals with a brace.

Spartak coach Unai Emery knows his rival well after having coached for Valencia and Almeria in Spain before joining the Russian club. But the Spanish coach never managed to secure a victory in his 12 matches against Barcelona.

"There's no use in looking back, not when you win or you lose," Vilanova said a day after celebrating his 44th birthday. "In the Champions League we have to be attentive right from the start, our experience tells us so as we've had a tough time in the group phase before."

Spartak returns to the competition after a six-year absence led by the arrival of a number of midfielders, including Romulo of Brazil, Kim Kallstrom of Sweden and Spanish playmaker Jose Manuel Jurado.

It is struggling domestically as a 2-2 draw at Kuban Krasnodar left it with one point from its last three league matches.

Source AP