Exactly 24 hours after the mega-rich and much-vaunted Zenit St Petersburg were mauled down in Malaga, another of the Russian powerhouses will have their Champions League credentials subjected to the sternest of tests on Spanish soil this evening.

And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the outcome will be just as painful for Spartak Moscow.

First of all, the money they spent in the summer – on Swedish set-piece specialist Kim Kallstrom and Brazilian ball-winner Romulo amongst others – is yet to translate into results on the pitch.

A 3-2 aggregate victory over Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-off round aside, Spartak have been in poor form ever since being demolished 5-0 by Zenit last month, slipping to seventh in the Russian Premier League standings.

Secondly, the opponent is Barcelona. At Camp Nou.

But one thing they do have in their favour is their Coach, a man who has stood on the Camp Nou touchline several times before.

Well, sort of. Shout, scream, crouch, bark orders, gesticulate wildly, Unai Emery can be found doing all of these things on a touchline, but standing still? Fat chance.

Just four months after moving to Moscow, Emery returns to his homeland with a chance to show his compatriots – particularly those residing within the city of Valencia – what they're missing. 

Valencia have collected five La Liga points from the first 12 available to them under Mauricio Pellegrino this season. Under Emery last year the figure was 10, and the fourth game in that sequence? A 2-2 draw with Barca at Mestalla.

Though Pellegrino's reign is still young, at present his Valencia look like outsiders to finish third –  something Emery's side achieved three seasons in a row, despite shedding talents of the calibre of David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.

Not that it was enough to appease the club's demanding fans, who were so displeased at one stage last term that they wrote the Basque tactician a letter spelling out precisely how keen they were to see the back of him.

Those within the coaching fraternity are somewhat more appreciative of Emery's talents however, with his opposite number tonight included.

“Unai we know well,” notes Tito Vilanova. “He has always made it very hard for us and always arrived here to put pressure on us. Valencia had that feature, but may not do so now, because he was a brave Coach.”

That bravery was there all to see in his Press conference yesterday.

“We come here with a single mindset – to win. And the best way to win is to play well, doing what you want to do, defend well, attack in numbers.”

Single mindedness is something that has always characterised the 40-year-old. It's the reason many of those who have played for his teams describe him as ‘a pain in the a***’, owing to his habit of giving them DVDs to watch in their spare time as homework and drilling slogans into their minds.

But it's also the reason why he led little Lorca to the verge of a double promotion from Segunda B to La Liga whilst still in his early 30s, why he inspired Almeria to an eighth place finish in their debut Primera campaign and why he strengthened and maintained Valencia's claim to be Spain's third force.

And it is why Spartak might prove a much tougher test for Barca tonight than their domestic form indicates.