26.09.2020

What to look out for on Matchday 9: Sochi’s litmus test, Fourth Moscow derby

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We have picked out some key points to look out for on matchday nine of the Russian Premier Liga

Fourth Moscow Derby 

After all four major Moscow clubs won their league games last matchday, they are all back in the top half of the table. FC Khimki, based in the outskirts of the capital, continue to struggle in the relegation zone having conceded more than any other side in the league, and they remain without a win so far. Somehow, despite only managing to score seven goals - just two sides have scored fewer all season - Dynamo are only three points off Spartak and the top of the table. 

CSKA take on Lokomotiv this matchday in wildly differing form. Viktor Gancharenko’s side have won three on the trot - the longest winning run in the RPL - and without being outscored by any other league side. Lokomotiv on the other hand are limping along having claimed their first win in six RPL matches, and remain in midtable ahead of their return to European action  next month. 

With only four European places on offer via the RPL at the end of this season, Zenit having won the last two titles and Krasnodar once again in the hunt for Champions League football, there is a strong likelihood that at least one of Spartak, CSKA, Lokomotiv or Dynamo will miss out on continental action. The good news for Marko Nikolic’s side is that they have only lost once in their last six meetings with CSKA. The bad news is that they are already playing catch up with the Europa Conference League places in third and fourth.

Unexpected Sochi European challenge gets local litmus test

When FC Sochi was formed just over two years ago following the reformation of what was Dynamo St. Petersburg, the plans were certainly not insignificant. The Fisht Olympic Stadium was gleaming in the Adler skyline just waiting to be filled with regular top-flight football after a period without a professional team in Sochi. After the 2014 Winter Olympic Games had drawn the world’s attention to the area, it needed a new sporting beacon.

Promotion at the first attempt from the FNL put the credentials of the youngest RPL side into sharp focus. A rough run of form in the early part of last season put them on the back foot, but after Vladimir Fedotov’s arrival in January this year they dragged themselves out of the relegation battle in some style. Despite losing their two top goalscorers from last season - Zenit loanees Aleksandr Kokorin and Andrey Mostovoy - they have risen to the challenge this campaign.

Last weekend they lost the last remaining unbeaten run but still boast the RPL’s top goalscorer in Christian Noboa. Sochi winger Nikita Burmistrov knows the south of Russia well enough having featured for Anzhi Makhachkala, Rotor Volgograd and Krasnodar themselves, and has stepped up with two goals too. The visitors find themselves one point behind their local rivals as they come off the back of their record RPL victory last weekend - a 7-2 thrashing of FC Khimki. They’ve also put themselves within touching distance of Champions League football following a 2-1 first-leg win over PAOK midweek. Standing in their way of reaching the qualifiers again, at first anyway, is the immediate challenge of the RPL’s surprise package.

Zenit looking to avoid equalling rare unwanted landmark

To say that Zenit are under pressure is possibly to make too much out of their recent dip in form; they remain top of the table, they have Champions League football to look forward to, they are the RPL’s joint-top scorers and have the second best defensive record. However, for a club of their stature, anything but silverware will inevitably come under scrutiny. After their 1-1 draw away to Ural Ekaterinburg last weekend, they extended their run with just one win to four matches. 

The last time they dropped points four times in five league matches came almost three years ago. Since then, they have lifted the last two RPL titles and claimed a domestic treble, based largely on their unrivalled home form. They have the longest winning run at home after seven straight league victories at the Gazprom Arena, although curiously they have conceded exactly once in all of those. The last time they won at home in the RPL without conceding came almost 10 months ago.

Ufa have little statistical support to suggest an upset is on the cards unfortunately, after four losses in their last five fixtures have left them languishing in the relegation playoff zone. They have just five RPL wins in the last 12 months, and although four of those have come away from home it doesn’t bode well for taking on the league leaders, even if they didn’t lose either of their last two meetings.


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