19.07.2019

Russian Premier Liga – Matchday 2 Preview

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Its back and back with a bang. Yes, the Russian Premier Liga returned to action for 2019/20 last weekend and it certainly lived up to expectations and more. Goals, nineteen across the eight games and some fantastic strikes amongst them, surprise results and many a talking point to discuss. Week Two certainly has a lot to live up to and without further ado, here is the preview for Matchday 2 of the RPL

Saturday 20th July (CET 13:00)

FC Ufa v FC Krasnodar

Matchday 2 begins withFC Ufa taking on Krasnodar. They were involved in arguably the game of the week on Matchday 1 as they suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat away to FC Ural Yekaterinburg. Nonetheless, Ufa despite the defeat looked competitive despite many pre-season predictions of them enduring a campaign battling relegation. Their big summer signing, striker Andrei Kozlov from Orenburg netted on his debut and youngster Daniil Fomin, another debutant also found the net.

FC Krasnodar are tipped to push for the title once again this season, however, like their opening day defeat in Rubin last season, the Bulls once again fell short in Round 1 this time out, going down 1-0 away to Akhmat Grozny. It has not been a happy summer in the Southern Russian city, key players such as Yuri Gazinskiy and Viktor Claesson are both out injured until around the new year. Furthermore, the summer departures of both Mauricio Pereyra and Charles Kabore are huge holes in midfield that summer signings Tonny Vilhena, Kaio and Younes Namli will have to fill. On the other hand, whilst FC Krasnodar’s defeat to Akhmat was a shock, Akhmat away is a tricky fixture at any time for any team in the RPL so it is by no means a disgraceful defeat for the Bulls.

FC Ufa, despite recruiting the aforementioned Fomin and Kozlov also lost key personnel this summer such as right back Dimitri Zhivoglyadov and midfielder Ivan Paurevic. Plus the opening day loss to Akhmat may be the wake-up call Krasnodar needs to truly start their season.

Saturday 20th July (CET 15:30)

KryliaSovetov v Arsenal Tula

Second up on Matchday 2 is Krylia Sovetov against Arsenal Tula. Krylia were involved in the shock result of Matchday 1 as they stunned CSKA Moscow 2-0 in Samara. Many predicted a season of struggle for Krylia this season, they only narrowly escaped relegation through the relegation/promotion playoffs last term. Furthermore, their summer transfer business involved considerably more departures than arrivals with Ramil Shedaev and Alexandr Samedov both leaving and veteran striker Sergey Kornilenko having retired. Nonetheless, their goalkeeper and four man defence held firm under pressure and counter attacked on CSKA to great effect to claim a shock victory. It was a great moment for 36 year-old veteran Aleksandr Anyukov, the right back had originally retired this summer after leaving Zenit, yet the Samara-native came out of retirement and was exceptional for his hometown club in their opening round victory.

Arsenal Tula opened the 2019/20 RPL season last Friday with a 1-1 draw against Dynamo Moscow in what was a good, competitive encounter between two sides expected to challenge for European qualification this season. The Cannoneers will be content with their opening night result despite failing to obtain all three points owing to the fact that their squad has been decimated this summer. Several stars who shone last season in Tula such as Mohammed Kadiri, Luka Djordevic and Zelimkhan Bakaev have all returned to their parent clubs. However, Arsenal are now gradually bringing in signings to replace the influential players who departed.

This will be a tougher game to predict than it was this time last week due primarily to Krylia’s win over CSKA. Arsenal Tula do not on paper represent as tough an assignment as CSKA, however, can the Samara outfit back up their display against CSKA and maintain such a level of performance over multiple weeks? Expect a tight tussle at the Samara Arena.

Saturday 20th July (CET 18:00)

CSKA Moscow v FC Orenburg

Game three of Matchday 2 pitches two teams coming in on the back of defeats on Matchday 1, CSKA Moscow and FC Orenburg. CSKA’s 2-0 defeat away at Krylia Sovetov was arguably the shock result of Matchday 1. The Red Blues, widely tipped for a top three finish this term were deservedly defeated by the Samara based outfit and must regroup fast to get their campaign started. Big name summer signing, 21 year Croat Nikola Vlasic had a quiet game by his own high standards and will be hoping for an improved performance in front of the Red-Blues’ supporters.

FC Orenburg are a team tipped to struggle this season. Much of the club’s spine from last season such as goalkeeper Evgeni Frolov, winger Aleksei Sutormin and striker Andrei Kozlov have departed and the club have barely conducted any summer transfers so far to replace these stars. This lack of recruitment so far stood out in their 2-1 opening Matchday defeat to Rostov.

Despite their opening day loss, CSKA would have to be viewed as favourites to bounce back with a win here against Orenburg. A shock result early doors can sometimes act as rejuvenating factor for a club and players such as the likes of the aforementioned Vlasic and striker FedorChalov are unlikely to have below-par games two weeks in a row.

Saturday 20th July (CET 20:30)

FC Rostov v Spartak Moscow

The final match on Saturday sees FC Rostov take on Spartak Moscow in Rostov-on-Don. Rostov endured a mid-table campaign last time around and look set for at minimum a similar campaign this season. The Yellow-Blues’ summer recruitment has comprised mainly of signing emerging talent from the Russian second tier, however, veteran right back Aleksei Kozlov from Dynamo Moscow represents a smart capture on a free transfer. Rostov, normally strong at home demonstrated this with a controlled opening round triumph against Orenburg.

Spartak also began their season with a victory at home to newly promoted FC Sochi. One glance at the game may give the untrained eye the impression of a routine Spartak win. However, this was far from the case, Sochi who have recruited ambitiously at times dominated the Red-Whites on their own turf. A late Samuel Gigot header which won the game for Spartak was harsh on Sochi as a draw would have been a fair reflection of the game.

This match is a tough one to call. Spartak as always have a strong reputation in Russian football, however Rostov are at home where they are always a tough side to defeat. Not to mention they have an experience spine to their team and will have noted how shaky Spartak looked last weekend despite their victory. Expect a tight tussle in front of a bumper crowd at Rostov Arena on Saturday evening.

Sunday 21st July (CET 13:00)

FC Ural v Akhmat Grozny

The opening match on Sunday sees FC Ural take on Akhmat Grozny in Yekaterinburg. The Bumblebees began 2019-20 in a positive fashion with an impressive 3-2 home victory over FC Ufa. Romanian Eric Bicfalvi was the key to Ural’s victory, netting twice for last season’s beaten Russian Cup finalists.

Their opponents Akhmat had just as much if not an even more impressive victory on Matchday 1, a 1-0 home victory over expected title challengers FC Krasnodar. Akhmat’s summer of recruitment has caught the eye, talented young goalkeeper Aleksandr Melikhov has signed from second tier Tom Tomsk alongside Polish international winger Konrad Michalak and Venezuelan striker Andres Ponce. With these recruits, a settled squad and manager, Akhmat are potential Europa League qualification contenders this season.

Expect a tight game in Yekaterinburg, both sides go into the fixture on the back of victories and with confidence. Akhmat must improve their away form if they are to fulfil their objective of challenging for Europe and a good display and result against Ural away would be the perfect way to demonstrate this.

Sunday 21st July (CET 15:30)

Lokomotiv Moscow v FC Tambov

Game 6 of Matchday 2 comes from RZD Arena in Moscow where Lokomotiv Moscow host newly promoted FC Tambov. Last season’s Russian Cup winners and RPL runners-up began their campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Rubin Kazan in a result which was neither very promising nor too concerning for the Railroaders. Grzegorz Krychowiak has made his loan move permanent from Parisian giants PSG and much is expected of the Polish international this season in Moscow. Two other major summer signings at Lokomotiv are 25 year old right back Dimitri Zhivoglyadov from FC Ufa and 22 year old Brazilian central defender Murilo Cerqueira, the first steps towards rebuilding their ageing team.

Tambov could not have been handed a more tougher first two RPL fixtures than both Zenit and Lokomotiv away in the first two matches. However, despite a 2-1 loss in Saint Petersburg on Matchday 1, Tambov certainly put up more of a battling display than many previously thought. Tambov were surprise winners of the second tier last season and their recruitment of 15 players, many of whom are recruits from the second tier or unheralded signings from leagues such as Latvia, Armenia and Belarus make them a source of intrigue in their debut season in the RPL.

After their battling display against Zenit, Tambov have proven that they will not be an easy team to comfortably defeat this season. Nonetheless, one has to make Lokomotiv the favourites for this encounter.

Sunday 21st July (CET 18:00)

Dynamo Moscow v Rubin Kazan

The penultimate fixture of the round sees Dynamo Moscow take on Rubin Kazan at Dinamo Arena. This is the Muscovite outfit’s first full season at their fabulous new home and their summer recruitment hints that they are determined to give their new home and fanbase a team to be proud of. The recruitment of the likes of Sebastian Szymanski, Charles Kabore and Sergey Parshivlyuk highlight the ambition to bring European football to their new arena and on Matchday 1 in their 1-1 draw against Arsenal Tula, the Blue-Whites looked impressive throughout the game and a vast upgrade on last season’s 12th placed finish.

Rubin Kazan also looked impressive on Matchday 1 in their 1-1 draw against Lokomotiv. Summer recruitment at the Tatar outfit has seen a combination of the experience of Yuri Dzyupin and Vitali Denisov with the youth of Georgian trio Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Beka Mikeltadze and Zurab Davitashvili join. Veteran manager Kurban Berdyev departed the club in the summer and in his place, promoted from the club’s youth ranks came former Rubin RPL double title winner Roman Sharonov. An interesting season beckons for Rubin in what is expected to be a tight mid-table of the RPL.

Prior to last weekend, many would have had this game down as a comfortable home win given Dynamo’s impressive summer’s recruitment. However, Rubin impressed in their draw against Lokomotiv and that result and performance should make this a fascinating and difficult fixture to predict.

Sunday 21stJuly (CET 20:30)

FC Sochi v Zenit St Petersburg

Our final game of the Matchday comes from the southern city of Sochi, where PFC Sochi take on champions Zenit St Petersburg. The interesting subplot to this fixture is that just two seasons ago this fixture would have been The Saint Petersburg derby between Dynamo St Petersburg and Zenit. In fact in 2017/18, Dynamo famously knocked their rivals Zenit out of the Russian Cup. However, all change occurred in the summer of 2018 when Dynamo were relocated to Sochi and renamed PFC Sochi. After finishing second in the FNL last season and winning promotion to the top flight, Sochi have undertaken an impressive summer’s recruitment so far and look a strong bet to finish comfortably in mid-table if last season’s unlucky late loss at Spartak proved.

Zenit began their title defence on Matchday 1 with a 2-1 victory over Tambov, yet the result was not convincing and a big improvement will be needed against Sochi on Sunday to achieve a similar result. Zenit’s two main summer recruits, left back Douglas Santos and winger AlekseiSutormin both debuted for the Light Blues at the weekend and in preparation for their Champions League campaign, one could expect to see a few more new faces join the Piter outfit before the transfer deadline.

This will be an intriguing game to conclude the weekend’s action. Zenit start as favourites, however, they cannot afford lull periods in the game against Sochi who showed their danger last weekend against Spartak. Further spice has been added in recent days with Sochi’s signing of veteran 34 year-old striker Aleksandr Bukharov, a former Zenit player to strengthen their attacking options.


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