Russian Premier League Matchday 4 Preview

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Saturday 3rd August (CET 13:00)

FC Ural v FC Rostov

Matchday 4 in the Russian Premier League begins in Yekaterinburg where Ural face Rostov. Ural head into the game on the back of a disappointing performance on Matchday 3 against Dinamo Moscow. The Bumblebees were on the end of a 2-0 defeat in Moscow and will be hoping to bounce back on home soil. This match is Ural’s 3rd home game of the season already and their other two home matches against Ufa on Matchday 1 and Akhmat on Matchday 2 both yielded impressive victories.

Their opponents Rostov go into the game unbeaten with 2 wins and a draw from their 3 matches so far. Matchday 3’s impressive 3-2 away victory against Arsenal Tula has highlighted the increased attacking potential of Rostov so far this season with 7 goals scored in their opening three matches. Last season after three games by contrast Rostov had only scored 2 goals. The recruitment of creative attacking midfielders Ivelin Popov and Roman Eremenko is cited as a major factor in this increased attacking potency. On the evidence so far this campaign, Valeri Karpin’s well-balanced outfit look like being a contender to qualify for European football next season. Expect a tight game in Yekaterinburg between two sides enjoying a productive start to the season.

Saturday 3rd August (CET 15:30)

Krylia Sovetov v Lokomotiv Moscow

Saturday’s second encounter in the RPL sees Krylia Sovetov take on Lokomotiv Moscow in Samara. After their shock opening day victory against CSKA Moscow on Matchday 1, Krylia have suffered two consecutive defeats at home to Arsenal Tula and away to FC Ufa and go into the Lokomotiv match under pressure. One highlight of the season so far for the Feathers has been the performances of Aleksandr Sobolev, the 2 year-old striker has scored 3 goals in 3 games for Krylia. The Feathers have also strengthened their squad in preparation for Matchday 4 with the signing of CSKA central defender Nikita Chernov.

Lokomotiv go into this fixture on the back of a 1-0 loss to Muscovite rivals CSKA on Matchday 3. The Railroaders with 4 points from their opening three games have made a steady if unspectacular start to the campaign. Both the Miranchuk twins Aleksey and Anton remain the main creative threats from midfield and both will need to be on form once again to give the Railroaders hope of victory. Lokomotiv have so far had a mixed season, however, one would expect them to be favourites against Krylia. Nonetheless, they must be wary of CSKA going to Samara on the opening day of the season and being defeated by Krylia.

Saturday 3rd August (CET 18:00)

Spartak Moscow v Dinamo Moscow

The first of two huge games on Saturday evening sees Spartak Moscow take on Dinamo Moscow in the Oldest Moscow derby. Spartak go into the game in the worst possible shape, a shock 2-0 away loss on Matchday 3 against newly-promoted Tambov mean just 4 points gained from a possible 9 so far for the Red-Whites. In truth, taking into account performances so far over the three opening matches, Spartak can consider themselves lucky to have 4 points on the board as their opening day victory against PFC Sochi and their 2-2 draw away at Rostov both masked deficiencies in the team. Spartak will be hoping that the recent signings of German World-Cup winner Andre Schurrle and Jordan Larsson, son of Swedish legend Hendrik Larsson will help inspire a revival.

Dinamo head into the derby in better spirits, a convincing 2-0 home victory against Ural on Matchday 3 was a much needed boost after a disappointing return of only 1 point from their opening two games. An additional boost for the Blue-Whites prior to the derby against Spartak is news of their squad being strengthened with the signing of Cameroonian striker Clinton N’Jie from Olympique Marseille. This derby will be a tough one to call, Dinamo go into the game in better spirits, however, Spartak are at home and the arrivals of Schurrle and Larsson are a timely boost to their prospects.

Saturday 3rd August (CET 20:30)

Zenit St Petersburg v FC Krasnodar

Saturday’s final game is also arguably game of the week in the RPL. It sees the two sides many predict as the favourites for the title go head-to-head. Zenit go into the game on the back of a 2-0 victory away at FC Orenburg on Matchday 3. With three wins from three games, Zenit are the only RPL team with an unbeaten record so far. Solid rather than spectacular is an accurate reflection of Zenit’s performances in their opening three games, yet encouragingly, the Piter outfit do look like they are capable of significantly improving as the season goes on. Zenit also received a further boost this week with the news that Brazilian winger Malcolm is close to signing for the club from Spanish giants Barcelona.

After a poor start to the season with a 1-0 away defeat against Akhmat, Krasnodar have got stronger in every game since. Last weekend’s 3-0 victory at home against PFC Sochi on Matchday 3 was reminiscent of great Krasnodar performances in the past and is a huge confidence boost prior to the Zenit game. The last time these two sides faced off late last season, it was an absolute classic in Krasnodar which Zenit emerged victorious by 3 goals to 2, a key victory in the Light Blues’ eventual title victory. Given both teams’ start to the campaign and calibre of players on display, do not rule out a similar calibre of game on Saturday evening.

Sunday 4th August (CET 15:30)

FC Tambov v Arsenal Tula

Sunday’s opening match sees FC Tambov face Arsenal Tula in Saransk, Tambov’s temporary home whilst their home stadium undergoes renovations. So far the newly promoted outfit have proven competitive in their debut RPL campaign. Narrow one goal losses away to both Zenit and Lokomotiv highlighted promise and compounded the pre-season belief that Tambov would struggle to compete at this level. This promise was turned into points with a hard-fought shock 2-0 victory against Spartak on Matchday 3. With a second consecutive home match, Tambov will now look to back up their victory against Spartak with another strong performance against Arsenal Tula

For the Canoneers, 2019/20 has started in unspectacular fashion, normally strong at home, the Tula-based outfit have failed to win either of their two home RPL games so far, drawing 1-1 with Dinamo on Matchday 1 and losing 3-2 to Rostov on Matchday 3. In addition, Arsenal Tula were disappointingly knocked out of the Europa League by Azerbaijan’s Neftci Baku 4-0 on aggregate meaning a very brief adventure in European football competitions for the Canoneers. Whilst Arsenal remain a side good enough to be comfortably mid-table this season and will improve as the season goes on, Sunday could see further disappointment. A three-day turnaround between their Europa League tie in Baku and Sunday’s fixture could have an impact and arguably because of this Tambov go into this fixture as slight favourites.

Sunday 4th August (CET 18:00)

Rubin Kazan v CSKA Moscow

Next up is arguably Sunday’s game of the day between Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow. Despite veteran manager Kurban Berdyev departing Rubin this summer, his successor Roman Sharonov has enjoyed a surprisingly impressive start to his managerial career with two wins and a draw from Rubin’s opening three matches. Sharonov appears to have maintained a trait that his predecessor Berdyev possessed at the Tatar outfit, an ability to get a team defensively organised and grind out narrow victories. Two 1-0 victories in their last two games is evidence of this.

Another team enjoying a strong start to 2019/20 so far are CSKA Moscow. After their poor defeat to Krylia Sovetov on Matchday 1, the Red-Blues have rebounded well with two consecutive victories against FC Orenburg and in the Muscovite derby against Lokomotiv. CSKA have looked solid if unspectacular so far, however, many are aware of the potential for this team to increase their performances substantially in the upcoming weeks. Rubin will represent a test for CSKA however, the Red-Blues have only scored 3 goals in their 3 matches so far, the same number as Rubin, however, Rubin have themselves only conceded 1 goal so far this campaign. Expect a tight tussle in Tatarstan.

Sunday 4th August (CET 20:30)

PFC Sochi v FC Ufa

Sunday’s final encounter sees PFC Sochi face Ufa at the Fisht Olympic Stadium. Sochi have endured a tough start to their life in the RPL so far. However, conversely it has been a tough start to life in the top flight for the Southern outfit having had to play Spartak away, Zenit at home and Krasnodar away. One area of concern has been the lack of goals for Sochi, in fact so far they are the only RPL side yet to score so far this season, a statistic they will hope to soon see the back of.

Ufa go into Sunday’s encounter having recorded a much needed 2-1 victory over Krylia Sovetov on Matchday 3. Going into the back of that game, Ufa had been on the wrong side of two 3-2 defeats in their opening matches against both Ural and Krasnodar. A victory therefore against a team expected to be a rival in the battle to avoid relegation was therefore a big confidence boost for the Bashkortostan outfit. This is another difficult to predict fixture, Ufa go into the match with confidence after a victory last weekend, however, Sochi are at home and will relish playing a lower opponent after their tough introduction to life in the top flight.

Monday 5th August (CET 19:00)

Akhmat Grozny v FC Orenburg

Rounding off the weekend on Monday, Akhmat Grozny take on Orenburg. Akhmat began their campaign with a promising 1-0 home victory against Krasnodar, however, since then, they have suffered away defeats at Ural and Rubin, the former of which was a disappointing 3-0 reverse. The Chechen outfit will hope for a return to form on home soil.

Orenburg are one of only two sides alongside Sochi to be without a point after three matches so far. Like Sochi, one can make the argument that Orenburg have had to endure a tough start to the season with away games at Rostov and CSKA and a home fixture against Zenit. However, the summer departures of key personnel such as Yevgeni Frolov, Aleksey Sutormin and Andrey Kozlov are proving difficult gaps to fill and are cited as a reason for their struggle. Both sides are not in great form going into this encounter, however, Akhmat look the better side on paper and are normally tough to beat at home, therefore, they go into this clash as the favourites.


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