What to look out for on Matchday 28

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We have picked out the key points to keep an eye on this weekend on matchday 28.

Unbeaten Talalaev continues Great Escape

Since taking over as Krylia Sovetov Samara manager from Miodrag Bozovic three games ago with the club bottom of the Russian Premier Liga, Andrey Talalaev has not just stabilised performances but dragged them back to within reach of safety. With three games to go they are just one point from safety, although two of their nearest three competitors have superior head-to-head records so they will need to gain at least two points to stay up.

This is not Talalaev’s first permanent top-flight management position, he briefly took charge of FC Rostov in a caretaker capacity almost a decade ago and coached Volga Nizhniy Novgorod at the end of 2013/14 RPL season. But since then he has managed mostly in the lower leagues, including a spell against the side directly above Krylia in the table: FC Tambov. There he guided them to a promotion playoff place two years ago. Now, however, he may have to consign them to relegation to save his new club.

Talalaev was only denied a debut win in the Krylia dugout by a last-gasp Aleksey Miranchuk winner deep into added time, before a creditable goalless draw to the RPL’s second-highest scorers FC Rostov. Last matchday his players ran riot away to Arsenal Tula, coming back from 1-0 down to plunder four unanswered goals before Evgeny Lutsenko’s late consolation. 

Their opponents Dynamo Moscow have gone from pole position to challenge the top five to owning the league’s joint-second longest winless run at four matches. A few weeks ago this game might have been a step too far for Krylia, but under their renaissance they have a chance to ruffle yet more feathers.

Potential European race on full throttle

Although Zenit St. Petersburg wrapped up the title in record time after matchday 26, every other side in the league still has something to play for. The rest of the top five have managed just seven wins from the 20 matches they played collectively over the last five matchdays, leaving them to nervously shuffle around; CSKA Moscow have gone from fifth to third after their recent winning streak, leapfrogging FC Krasnodar into the final Champions League position.

Where the race gets even more intense is in the right for sixth. With Zenit St. Petersburg already into Europe’s premier competition as champions, if they win also Russian Cup, the place in the Europa League will pass to sixth place in the RPL, suddenly leaving anyone down to second-bottom Krylia technically within reach of a back-door route to Europe.

FC Sochi take on Spartak Moscow in their last home game of the season with both sides winless in their last four matches, and Domenico Tedesco’s side three points higher. It would have been highly fanciful at the start of the season for the newly-promoted side to be targeting Europe in their debut top-flight campaign, but a win would catapult them right into the conversation with two games left to play. Lose, and they are suddenly on the cusp of a relegation dogfight.

Could Rubin Kazan break four-and-a-half year record?

As the lowest scorers in the league, Rubin haven’t set many positive records this season. Since Leonid Slutsky took over in the winter, however, they have picked up 14 points from his eight games in charge, having only taken 19 from the previous 19 league games. They have also maintained one of the most impressive unbeaten runs away from home, currently standing at eight matches.

Denis Makarov’s second consecutive winner in midweek has set them comfortably in mid-table as one of only three sides to have a current winning streak of at least two games. One of the others, a revitalised CSKA Moscow, stand in their way of breaking a run that is approaching five years. Rubin haven’t won three RPL games on the bounce since November 2015; to equal that mark they will have to find a way past a defence that hasn’t conceded in four games.

Photo: Rubin Kazan


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