Russian Premier League Matchday 19 Preview

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Zenit St. Petersburg vs Dynamo Moscow

League leaders Zenit St. Petersburg host in-form Dynamo Moscow at the Gazprom Arena this Friday in the last round of fixtures before the winter break. They can complete the entire calendar year unbeaten at home in the RPL if they avoid defeat against Dynamo having won six of their last seven league games.

Dynamo have a chance to start the spring part of the season just four points off a guaranteed Europa League qualification spot if they win. Boosted by Maximilian Phillip’s goalscoring form - the German has scored four in his last two club matches - Kirill Novikov’s side have won four of their last five games, having only won three of the previous 25.

Zenit and Dynamo have shared many players and rivalries in the past. Zenit’s Yuriy Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin, Dynamo’s Artur Yusupov, and Zenit legend and all-time record goalscorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov all played for both teams, while both clubs see Spartak Moscow as their key rivals.

Arsenal Tula vs Lokomotiv Moscow

Fresh from their 1-0 win away to CSKA Moscow last weekend, Arsenal Tula must win to ensure they stay in the top half of the table going into the new year. They have only won twice overall, and not once at home, since August, but both times were against Moscow clubs.

Lokomotiv Moscow have now fallen eight points behind title rivals Zenit after losing the derby to Dynamo last weekend. Although they have won just once in their last five league games overall, they’ve won all but two of their RPL away games since July.

Igor Cherevchenko welcomes his former club to Tula having served Lokomotiv as a player, then as an assistant to eight different managers - including current boss Yuriy Semin - and finally as a head coach.

Tambov vs Orenburg

Georgi Melkadze’s renaissance on loan at Tambov from Spartak Moscow has coincided with an impressive run of form for his temporary team. They have won three of the four matches in which he has scored for them, including two of his last three games that have lifted them off the bottom of the table.

Orenburg have slipped down to the cusp of the relegation playoff zone after winning just once in their last five league games. They still haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet away from home all season but have had an extra week to prepare for this fixture as their game away to Sochi last weekend was postponed when their hosts suffered a rotavirus outbreak.

With one point separating the two former FNL rivals, the implications for this fixture are clear.

Krasnodar vs CSKA Moscow

Krasnodar remain unbeaten in the league since they last faced CSKA Moscow nine matches ago, but they have failed to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their last seven games. They have a crucial Europa League fixture away to Getafe next week that they must win to progress to the knockout stages.

CSKA Moscow have been knocked out of European competition mathematically so will have no such concerns about conserving energy for midweek responsibilities. They are unbeaten in their last six away league matches, and average two goals scored in that run.

Two of the three youngest managers in the RPL are separated by just a single point in the hunt for Champions League football.

Akhmat Grozny vs Ufa

Akhmat Grozny have kept their heads above the relegation waters with a five-match unbeaten run, but at the same time they have gone the longest without winning at home. Former Spartak Moscow captain and RPL champion Denis Glushakov finally scored his first league goal for the club in their 1-1 draw against Rubin Kazan last weekend.

Like that of their hosts, there are two sides to Ufa’s form. Ufa rose into the top half of the table thanks to their first away win in over 20 months last weekend, while only three teams can match their four-game unbeaten run. That win was their first in eight games though.

Since Igor Shalimov took over at the start of October, Akhmat have only lost once.

Krylia Sovetov Samara vs Ural Ekaterinburg

Krylia Sovetov Samara have struggled for goals recently despite boasting the joint-top goalscorer in the RPL in Aleksandr Sobolev. He is directly responsible for over half of his side’s league goals but hasn’t scored in his last five matches, while Krylia haven’t troubled the scoresheet in their last three games.

Ural Ekaterinburg have only won once in nine matches but are unbeaten in their last six away games. On the bright side have now kept four clean sheets in their last five league games having only managed four in their previous 45 RPL fixtures.

Matches between these two are usually entertaining affairs; both teams have scored in all but one of their last nine meetings.

Sochi vs Rubin Kazan

Sochi are only just recovering from a debilitating rotavirus outbreak that caused their game against Orenburg last weekend to be postponed. They are four points from possible safety as things stand and without a win since September and have only one home win to their name.

Rubin Kazan remain the RPL’s lowest scorers after just two goals in their last four matches. Although they haven’t won in six games, they are also unbeaten in their last three away games and have suffered defeat just twice in their last eight games.

There will be plenty of familiar faces for the visitros. Six former Rubin Kazan players now represent Sochi - Soslan Dzhanaev, Dmitry Poloz, Elmir Nabiullin, Fedor Kudryashev, Christian Noboa, Ibragim Tsallagov.

Spartak Moscow vs Rostov

Domenico Tedesco has claimed just eight points from his opening six matches, with Spartak now on a run of 11 matches with just two wins. Only clear league leaders Zenit St. Petersburg have conceded fewer goals at home though.

Rostov travel to the capital having now gone four games without a win. Only Ural Ekaterinburg have conceded more goals than former Spartak legend Valery Karpin’s side, with the southerners conceding 10 goals in their last three away matches alone.

Other than Karpin’s links to Rostov’s opponents, there are also the former Spartak players among their ranks in the shape of Ivelin Popov, Roman Eremenko and Sergey Pesyakov.


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