Russian Premier Liga – Matchday 25 Preview

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Wednesday 24th April (CET 18:00)

Akhmat Grozny v FC Krasnodar

Matchday 25 in the Russian Premier Liga kicks off in Grozny with Akhmat facing off against Krasnodar. Two sides who come into the fixture with contrasting emotions after their Matchday 24 results. Akhmat emerged victorious in Matchday 24 with a tight 1-0 away victory over Anzhi Makhachkala. Akhmat have won three and lost two of their last 5 matches and remain as difficult as ever to predict the results of. Nonetheless, their result against Anzhi keeps alive their hopes of finishing 6th in the RPL and potentially qualifying for next season’s Europa League.

Their opponents Krasnodar come into the game on the wrong side of an epic and dramatic late 3-2 defeat at home to Zenit St Petersburg. In arguably the game of this season’s RPL, the Bulls thought that a late 91st minute stunning strike from Mauricio Pereyra had rescued a point for them against Zenit. Yet Artem Dzyuba’s 95th minute header from a corner broke the hearts of Krasnodar and all but extinguished their championship hopes.

Krasnodar despite their late heartache will have to pick themselves up fast, they are in the middle of a fierce four way fight to record a top three finish and secure Champions League football for next season. However, Akhmat at home are always a tough opponent, so expect a tight contest in Grozny.

Wednesday 24th April (CET 18:00)

FC Rostov v Lokomotiv Moscow

The Matchday 25 fixture between FC Rostov and Lokomotiv Moscow at Rostov Arena is a dress rehearsal for the second leg of the Russian Cup Semi Final, the first leg of which was drawn 2-2 at Lokomotiv’s RZD Arena. Both sides will therefore want to use this fixture to strike a psychological blow going into the second leg of the Russian Cup Semi Final.

Rostov after their impressive 2-1 win against Spartak on Matchday 23 against Spartak came crashing back down to earth on Matchday 24 with a disappointing 3-0 away loss against FC Orenburg, a result which saw them drop to 8th in the RPL standings below both Orenburg and Arsenal Tula.

Lokomotiv go into the fixture after a 1-1 draw against Muscovite rivals CSKA Moscow on Matchday 24 to stretch their unbeaten run in the RPL to an impressive 9 games, the last time the Railroaders suffered defeat was their 2-1 away loss against Spartak on Matchday 16. Out of all the top 5 sides, Lokomotiv alongside Zenit look like the side in best form in the race to finish in the top three and qualify for next season’s Champions League.

However, Lokomotiv despite their long unbeaten run and Rostov’s poor performance in defeat to Orenburg will not find things easy on Wednesday evening in Southern Russia. Rostov have the 5th best home record in the RPL this season with only two defeats all season.

Wednesday 24th April (CET 18:30)

Rubin Kazan v FC Ufa

It has been a testing season for Rubin Kazan, Matchday 24 saw the Tatarstan outfit suffer a 2-1 away loss to Ural Ekaterinburg and slipped down the standings to 11th place. A poor run of just 1 win in their last 7 games has seen Kurban Berdyev’s side now facing up to a fight to avoid the promotion/relegation playoffs.

FC Ufa’s recent resurgence in form and resultscame to an abrupt end with a 2-1 home loss to Arsenal Tula on Matchday 24. The Bashkortostan based side will consider this defeat to the Cannoneers as a disappointment considering recent good results such as an away draw against CSKA and a home victory against Rostov.

This could prove a pivotal game for both side come the end of the season considering both sides remaining fixtures. Rubin in their last 6 games still have to play away fixtures against Champions League chasing Spartak, Lokomotiv and Krasnodar and a tough home match against Europa League chasing Orenburg. Whilst Ufa like the Tartars also face Orenburg at home alongside tough away fixtures against Krylia, Spartak and Lokomotiv. Therefore, it could prove a hugely important three points come the end of the season should either side can come away with victory from this fixture.

Tuesday 24th April (CET 18:30)

CSKA Moscow v Anzhi Makhachkala

This fixture sees two teams in desperate need of a boost after poor recent results. CSKA go into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw against city rivals Lokomotiv on Matchday 24. With only one win in the last four games, CSKA are struggling to put together a run of good form in the race for Champions League qualification.

For Anzhi on the other hand, their need is much more urgent than CSKA. A 1-0 home defeat to Akhmat Grozny on Matchday 24 keeps them in 15th place in the standings and still in an automatic relegation spot. With only one draw and four losses in their last five games, Anzhi are in urgent need to pick up points in what looks like a straight fight between themselves and Ufa in the battle for 14th place and the chance of salvation through the promotion/relegation playoffs.

Whilst many could view this fixture pre-match as an ideal opportunity for CSKA to rediscover their form in the race for Champions League qualification, there is a small glimmer of hope for Anzhi. CSKA have been much better on the road than at their home ground in the RPL this season, where they only rank 11th out of 16 teams.

Tuesday 24th April (CET 20:00)

Zenit St Petersburg v Dinamo Moscow

Tuesday’s fifth and late fixture sees leaders Zenit face off against relegation threatened Dinamo at Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg. The Piter based outfit are back at their own stadium for this fixture just 4 days after their epic encounter on Matchday 24 against Krasnodar. In a game where both sides shared 40 shots at goal between them over 90 minutes of non-stop action and excitement, Zenit, courtesy of a 95th minute Artem Dzyuba header took the three points in a 3-2 victory.

Dinamo Moscow themselves, however also come into this game with their spirits and confidence lifted after a 1-0 home win against fellow relegation rivals Krylia Sovetov. Dinamo’s hard-fought victory, their first since the 4-0 home victory against Ural Ekaterinburg on Matchday 17 could ultimately prove decisive come the end of the season in a tight and tense fight to avoid the relegation/promotion playoffs.

Despite their only being a four day break between Zenit’s epic victory over Krasnodar and this fixture at Gazprom, their victory against Krasnodar on Matchday 24 will give the Piter outfit a huge lift. The epic victory was strengthened even more as Zenit gained three more points on Krasnodar in the title race and combined with fellow title contenders Lokomotiv and CSKA cancelling each other out with a 1-1 draw, Zenit now sit eight points clear of their nearest challengers and look a strong bet for the title.

Possessing the strongest home record in the league against Dinamo, who themselves have the 3rd worst away record, Zenit will now look to use momentum gained from that win against Krasnodar to power their way to a first league title since the 2014-15 season.

Thursday26th April (CET 15:00)

Enisey Krasnoyarsk v FC Orenburg

Time is running out for Enisey Krasnoyarsk, the Siberian outfit lost away 2-0 at Spartak Moscow on Matchday 24 and remain rooted to the bottom of the RPL standings. Whilst neither of their relegation rivals Anzhi or Ufa managed to take advantage and increase the gap between themselves and Enisey, time is running out for the Krasnoyarsk outfit who are winless now in nine RPL games.

Their opponents Orenburg, however, are the polar opposite and head into Wednesday’s fixture in buoyant mood. Their Matchday 24 triumph over fellow Europa League contenders Rostov was a shock, not so much in the result, but the margin of victory Orenburg were able to display over the Yellow-Blues who just a week earlier had managed to defeat Spartak at home. Orenburg’s impressive win, just a week after their impressive Matchday 23 away victory over CSKA, lifts them into 6th place in the RPL and what could prove to be a Europa League spot at the end of the season.

So after seeing off Rostov and CSKA so impressively one would think Orenburg look a certainty to claim another three points here against the division’s bottom side. However, there is a glimmer of hope for Enisey. In their last four RPL home games, the Krasnoyarsk outfit are unbeaten with four draws. Therefore, Orenburg will have to pay respect to this statistic and play at their best to emerge with three points on Thursday.

Thursday 26th April (CET 17:30)

Krylia Sovetov v Ural Ekaterinburg

The second game on Tuesday is a huge contest in the tight fight to avoid the relegation/promotion playoffs at the end of the season. The home side, Krylia Sovetov were on the end of a narrow 1-0 defeat away at Dinamo Moscow on Matchday 24 in another huge fixture in the aforementioned battle at the bottom of the table.

Ural go into this away fixture on the back of a home 2-1 victory against Rubin Kazan. The Bumblebees victory against Rubin was noteworthy for having the quickest goal in the RPL this season in the first minute of the match courtesy of Andrei Yegorychev. After Dimitri Poloz equalised for Rubin, Ural won the match courtesy of an 85th minute winner from Romanian attacking midfielder Eric Bicfalvi.

Despite their recent form not being so impressive with four defeats in their last five games, Krylia do continue to remain competitive in games and only lose by narrow margins with three of their last four defeats only being by a solitary goal. Furthermore, Ural have only recorded 3 away wins all season and rank only 11th in the league in away form. Expect a tight and tense tussle in a relegation six-pointer in Samara.

Thursday 26th April (CET 19:30)

Arsenal Tula v Spartak Moscow

Matchday 25 concludes with Arsenal Tula taking on Spartak. Matchday 24 saw Arsenal continue their impressive season with a 2-1 away victory against Ufa. Away form had previously been a weak point for the Cannoneers, however they are now unbeaten in their last 4 away matches in the RPL and have yet to lose a match since the resumption of play after the winter break. Their victory over Ufa lifted Arsenal to 7th place in the standings as they chase Europa League football next season.

Their opponents Spartak Moscow come to Tula on the back of a 2-0 victory against Enisey Krasnoyarsk at Otkritie Arena on Matchday 24. Last weekend turned out to be a good weekend in more ways than one for the Red Whites as alongside recording a victory, all of their rivals in the race for the Champions League spot all dropped points reviving Spartak’s hopes of a top three finish and Champions League football next season.

The one major subplot to this game is Spartak manager Oleg Kononov returning to his old club who he left earlier in the season to take the Spartak job after the dismissal of Massimo Carrera. Kononov will in no uncertain terms be advising his team of just how tough a task they will be faced with in Tula. Arsenal have the 4th best home record in the RPL this season and have suffered only one defeat on home soil. Conversely, however, Spartak do possess the 4th best away record in the RPL with only 2 away defeats so far this season.


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