What to look out for on matchday 8: Spartak and Ufa face former stars

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We have rounded up the most intriguing aspects of matchday 8.

Rubin have chance to leapfrog Spartak

Rubin Kazan find themselves within unlikely touching distance of Europe as they welcome 2017 champions Spartak Moscow to Tatarstan. After scoring the least goals while also conceding the third least in the entire league last season, Rubin have been involved in the joint-most goals so far this campaign as they lie just two points off a Europa Conference League spot. A win would take them above Spartak, who had topped the table after matchday six.

The fact remains that for all their promising form this season so far, Rubin haven’t managed to beat the Red-Whites in their last 12 attempts in the league. Helping them try will be former Spartak youth team products Aleksandr Zuev and Solmurad Bakaev. Zuev has been repurposed as a full-back having spent time as an attacking midfielder for most of his career at Spartak, Rostov, Krylia Sovetov Samara and now Rubin. Meanwhile Bakaev - brother of Domenico Tedesco’s number 10 Zelimkhan - has started all but one of Rubin’s matches this season, scoring in the 2-1 win over fourth-placed CSKA.

Rubin, of course, are managed by former Armymen manager Leonid Slutsky, who has overseen more matches against CSKA’s bitter rivals than against any other side bar Zenit St. Petersburg and Lokomotiv Moscow. Of teams still left in the RPL, only Akhmat Grozny have suffered more defeats at Slutsky’s hands.

Ural look for first ever win against Zenit

After their first visit to the top of the table since winning the title back in 2017, Spartak were toppled at the first opportunity after their derby defeat to CSKA last weekend. This left the door open for Zenit to reclaim top spot after beating Arsenal Tula on matchday seven and resume their role as frontrunners. Sergey Semak’s side have resided at the very top of the entire Russian football league structure for all but 10 of the last 67 gameweeks stretching back to the start of the 2018/19 season.

In their way is Ural Ekaterinburg this weekend. The easternmost side in this season’s RPL don’t have the proudest record against Zenit; in fact, they have never beaten the Blue-White-Sky Blues, and suffered their record top-flight losing margin to them at the Gazprom Arena back in March this year when they were taken apart 7-1. Ural have lost the last five in a row to the domestic treble winners, and although they have tightened up their defence so far this season with the arrivals of Stefan Strandberg and Vladimir Rykov, they have let in more RPL goals than anyone since the start of last season.

Nothing is ever quite as it seems though. Zenit have only kept one clean sheet in their last five matches in the continued absence of regular number one Andrey Lunev, and haven’t scored in either of their last two away games. Yury Matveev guided his side to the only shutout of unbeaten FC Sochi this season two games ago, and have taken points off the other two sides to have qualified for this season’s Champions League in their last three home games.

Ufa’s nemesis CSKA return to haunt them

Even for a side of FC Ufa’s usually modest attacking output, they have an unusually poor home record against CSKA. In eight clashes hosted against the Armymen in Bashkortostan, they have scored just one goal, while they have posted the worst overall goal difference against them of all Moscow-based sides. The record is all the more stark when one considers that only Akhmat Grozny and Ural Ekaterinburg have beaten Ufa as often as CSKA have.

Defensive reliability has been the hallmark of Ufa’s relative success since their return to the top flight, but since the start of the new season they have let in almost two goals per game - the highest tally in the RPL. Thanks to no wins in their last five, scoring just once in the last four, and also scoring less than a goal per game too, they sit in the relegation playoff zone.

As if to add insult to injury, they must come up against some familiar faces. Former Ufa alumni Viktor Vasin, Ivan Oblyakov and Igor Diveev all now represent the visitors, although the latter may miss his latest opportunity to face his old side with a hip injury.


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