Russian Premier Liga Matchday 24 Preview

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Friday 19th April (CET 18:30)

Anzhi v Akhmat

Matchday 24 begins with a crucial game in Makhachkala for an Anzhi side who are quickly running out of time and games in an attempt to preserve their RPL status for next season. The Dagestan-based outfit were outclassed on Matchday 23 against Zenit and eventually left St Petersburg on the back of a 5-0 defeat.

3-1 is the magic scoreline for games involving Akhmat Grozny. The team from Grozny have been on both the correct side of and the receiving end of this scoreline in their last three RPL games, a 3-1 home loss against Spartak on Matchday 21, a 3-1 away win against FC Orenburg on Matchday 22 and a 3-1 home loss against Lokomotiv on Matchday 23.

One feels if Anzhi are to avoid relegation this season that three points here on their home ground are vital. Coming off the back of a 3-1 away defeat, Akhmat under normal circumstances would represent ideal opponents to play. However, Akhmat’s unpredictability means they are a difficult team for any opponent.

Saturday 20th April (CET 10:30)

FC Ufa v Arsenal Tula

Saturday’s early kick off is a vital encounter which affects events both at the bottom and in mid-table of the RPL. FC Ufa in Matchday 23 picked up another vital point in their quest to avoid relegation from the RPL in a 0-0 goalless draw against Enisey Krasnoyarsk. There will be however, an element of frustration from the Bashkortostan outfit after the game as Oliver Thill missed a 7th minute penalty which could have ensured all three points.

Arsenal Tula also come into this game on the back of the same scoreline as Ufa, a 0-0 draw at home with Ural. The Canoneers had the better of the game in Tula, however, they were unable to find the back of the net and thus missed out on a golden opportunity to keep up the pressure on 6th placed Rostov, especially considering their strong home record all season.

This early Saturday lunch kick-off brings together the side with the 3rd worst home record in the RPL so far against the side with the 3rd worse away record. For FC Ufa, three points would revive their hopes of avoiding even a promotion/relegation playoff. For Arsenal Tula, an away win would surely secure beyond any doubt their RPL status next season and increase their Europa League qualification hopes.

Saturday 20th April (CET 13:00)

FC Orenburg v FC Rostov

Both FC Orenburg and FC Rostov go into their Matchday 24 fixture against each other sat in 6th and 7th place respectively in the standings and both go into this fixture in a buoyant mood after their results at the weekend.

FC Orenburg produced arguably the shock of Matchday 23 by overcoming CSKA Moscow 3-2 at the VEB Arena. Despite going behind early to Ivan Oblyakov’s free kick, FC Orenburg answered back CSKA in perfect style with goals from Adessoye Oyewole and the ever-impressive Aleksei Sutormin to lead 2-1. Despite Abel Hernandez equalising for CSKA just before half time, FC Orenburg once again stunned their hosts early in the second half when Djordje Despotovic scored the game’s eventual winning goal.

FC Rostov also had a fine Matchday 23 by producing a shock 2-1 victory against Spartak Moscow. Goals from long-serving Moldovan midfielder Alexandru Gatcan and Uzbek striker Eldor Shomurodov gave the Yellow-Blues victory in front of an impressive attendance of 41,097 spectators at Rostov Arena. The impressive performance and result for FC Rostov consolidated their grip on 6th place in the RPL and closed the Southern club to within one point of Spartak in 5th place in the RPL standings.

In terms of form over the last five games, FC Rostov have 3 wins, 1 draw and a defeat, whereas FC Orenburg have 3 wins and 2 defeats. FC Rostov are ranked 8th out of 16 for away form so far in the RPL this season, whereas FC Orenburg are ranked 9th out of 16 for home form.

Saturday 20th April (CET 15:30)

Dinamo Moscow v Krylia Sovetov

The 3rd game on Saturday on Matchday 24 between Dinamo Moscow and Krylia Sovetov is a proverbial "six-pointer” in the race to avoid the relegation/promotion playoffs come the end of the season. Since the RPL resumed play after the winter break, Dinamo have yet to win a game and head into this pivotal game on the back of a five game winless run.

Their opponents, Krylia Sovetov impressively broke a 3 game winless run with a hard-earned 1-0 victory against Rubin Kazan on Matchday 23. The only goal of the game was quite a spectacular one from Krylia’s young winger Anton Zinkovsky who has impressed for the Feathers since signing from second tier Chertanovo Moscow in the Winter transfer window. The victory for the Samara outfit lifted them out of the promotion/relegation playoffs and up to 11th place in the RPL.

The other intriguing subplot to this game is that it is a repeat fixture that took place in the 2015-16 RPL season. On Matchday 24 of that season, Dinamo faced Krylia at Arena Khimki and the final score was 1-0 to Krylia courtesy of a late injury-time winner from Gianni Bruno. At the end of the 2015-16 season, Krylia survived in the RPL, whereas Dinamo were relegated from the top tier of Russian football for the very first time in their history. Will history repeat itself or will Dinamo gain revenge for that pivotal defeat three seasons ago?

Saturday 20th April (CET 18:00)

Lokomotiv Moscow v CSKA Moscow

The three previous games on Saturday however are the appetiser to the delicious main course of the top four clubs in the RPL facing off against each other in two games. The first offering of this delightful double header is Lokomotiv v CSKA Moscow at RZD Arena. On Matchday 23, Lokomotiv recorded a 3-1 win away in Grozny against Akhmat. Despite Akhmat’s unpredictability, this was still an impressive result for the Railroaders as Grozny is always a tough place for any team to emerge with three points.

CSKA, however, go into the game in bad spirits. After an impressive 2-0 away triumph against Spartak on Matchday 22, they then saw their Matchday 23 turn into a nightmare with a 3-2 home defeat to FC Orenburg. A shock result, which not only leaves their RPL title challenge hanging by a thread, but also is a blow to their Champions League qualification chances. To make matters worse, star defender Mario Fernandes was red carded and will miss the game against Lokomotiv.

Looking at how both sides are going into the game, one would at first glance have Lokomotiv as favourites, they are the form side in the RPL with 4 wins and 1 draw from their last 5 games and have impressed since the resumption of play after the winter break. However, CSKA are the team with the best away record in the RPL and will want to bounce back from their Orenburg ordeal.

Saturday 20th April (CET 20:00)

FC Krasnodar v Zenit St Petersburg

The second offering of Saturday night’s main course comes from Krasnodar Arena where FC Krasnodar face league leaders Zenit. Prior to the resumption of play in the RPL after the winter break, many had this game down as a potential championship decider as at the time there was only one point between the sides in the standings.

However, whilst it still remains a massive game, it is much more of an important game for FC Krasnodar than Zenit. The Bulls recorded a 1-1 draw away at Dinamo Moscow on Matchday 23. Not a disastrous result, however, they dropped further points to Zenit in the race for the title and now trail the St Petersburg outfit by 6 points. Krasnodar also dropped down to 3rd place in the RPL as a result of the draw thanks to Lokomotiv’s win against Akhmat.

By contrast, Zenit are unbeaten now in six RPL games after a 5-0 demolition of Anzhi on Matchday 23 and lead the RPL by a margin of six points. Whilst Anzhi may be struggling down at the bottom of the standings at present, the performance from Zenit last Sunday as well as the result will have delighted manager Sergei Semak as it was one of the best produced by Zenit all season.

Can FC Krasnodar get the win they need and blow open the title race, will Zenit close the door on their opponents title challenge with a win.

Sunday 21st April (CET 15:30)

FC Ural v Rubin

Sunday afternoon sees the RPL action arrive in Yekaterinburg with Ural facing off against Rubin. The Bumblebees recorded a 0-0 stalemate away against Arsenal Tula on Matchday 23 and took another vital point in their quest to avoid the RPL promotion/relegation playoffs.

As for their opponents Rubin, stuttering is a word which sums up their entire RPL season. The Tatarstan-based outfit have simply stuttered along since play resumed after the winter break and go into this fixture on the back of a 1-0 away defeat on Matchday 23 against Krylia Sovetov. With just 1 goal scored in the last 5 RPL matches, Rubin’s lack of scoring is seriously hampering their chances of finishing 6th in the RPL.

A win for either side in this game has significant consequences, a win for Ural would aid their quest to avoid relegation and all but extinguish Rubin’s fading chances of 6th. A away win for Rubin would reignite their 6th place hopes and also leave Ural deep in relegation worries

Sunday 21st April (CET 18:00)

Spartak v FC Enisey

Matchday 24 concludes at Otkritie Arena in Moscow with Spartak taking on FC Enisey. For the home side, Matchday 23’s away loss against FC Rostov was arguably the door closing on their faint title hopes and now the Red Whites must focus their attention on attempting to secure Champions League football for next season with a top three finish. Conversely, however, FC Rostov with their victory over Spartak now just sit one point behind Spartak in the standings and Spartak now have to worry just as much at FC Rostov creeping up behind them in the standings.

Whilst Spartak are coming into this on the back of two straight defeats, this is an ideal opportunity to bounce back into form against bottom of the table FC Enisey. The Krasnoyarsk based outfit did manage to grind out a point against FC Ufa on Matchday 23 and were aided by an early penalty save by Yuri Nesterenko from Ufa’s Oliver Thill. However, it was a game FC Enisey really needed to win. With eight points separating the Siberians from 14th placed FC Ufa and the last promotion/relegation playoff spot, avoiding automatic relegation to the FNL is looking like a difficult task.

Despite indifferent form at home with Spartak only ranked 8th out of 16 for home form in the RPL so far, they have to be considered favourites for victory here against a FC Enisey side with the poorest away record in the RPL so far this season.


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